Faces of our future

Desperately needed medical professionals are key to saving U.S. health care
Jessie Crabbe (middle) celebrates after she learns she was selected to do her residency at the University of Florida's Shands Hospital during Match Day at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University in Augusta on March 21. Our newest medical graduates are a vital part of health care's future.

Match Day at Georgia Regents University’s Medical College of Georgia is a spectacle.

The annual event, in which fourth-year medical students find out where they will begin their residency programs, is colorful, emotional and jubilant. Many students don outrageous costumes and blow off steam – deservedly so – when they receive the envelopes that divulge their residency destinations.

The enthusiasm and compassion of aspiring doctors is a reminder of the medical profession’s highly personal, highly intimate social contract. They remind us that it’s people, not governments, who have your best wellness decisions in mind in the increasingly bureaucratic business of medicine.

Their happy faces form the collective face of the future of U.S. health care.

These young people are the ones most capable of fixing our nation’s health care problems.

America is going to need every single one of them – and a lot more: Nearly half of all U.S. doctors are older than 50. The country’s physician shortfall could be as high as 150,000 doctors in the next decade.

The shortage will be worst in rural areas, where 20 percent of the U.S. population lives but less than 5 percent of doctors work.

Moreover, the number of residency slots – for post-graduate, real-world training – has not kept pace with the number of medical students since the federal government capped residency funding in 1997.

Georgia is hurting more than most. The state ranked 39th in the ratio of doctors per 100,000 population in 2010, the most recent year for available data.

President Obama’s 2015 budget proposal for $5 billion in new physician training programs is a bright spot. It calls for training 13,000 primary care residents over the next 10 years, as well as increasing the National Health Service Corps from 8,900 primary care providers a year to 15,000 a year.

This is the right way for the government to encourage growth in the health care field. In contrast, Obamacare encourages the growth of paperwork while discouraging the practice of medicine.

Doctors are expensive and, in too many places, rare. We should be focused on ways to make them less so.

America desperately needs more health care professionals and more residency slots, particularly in underserved rural areas. That’s how you save health care – not by feeding tax dollars to some sprawling government beast that spews red tape.

Earlier we mentioned the faces of health care’s future. One of those faces belongs to Guilly Rebagay of Martinez. If you saw The Augusta Chronicle’s front-page March 22 story about Match Day, you read about him being awarded a residency spot at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, one of the teaching affiliates of Harvard Medical School.

You also probably saw Mr. Rebagay in the big front-page photo. He was the young man celebrating in the red Power Ranger costume.

We’re familiar with Guilly, and couldn’t be prouder.

He was one of the 25 top high-school seniors The Chronicle selected for its annual Best and Brightest Award in 2006. He was president of Augusta Prep’s student council. He’s been a tutor and a food bank volunteer. He’s active in his church. He’s a superb pianist.

We challenge you to find a kinder, more well-rounded young man. We suspect dictionary editors interview Guilly whenever they want to fine-tune their definition of “altruism.”

We need more eager,
enthusiastic aspiring physicians like him.

Lots of them.

Fast.

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