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Nov 13 2013

NYIT Expert: Physician Shortage Threatens Healthcare

Old Westbury, N.Y.  (November 13, 2013) – The director of NYIT’s Center for the Future of the Healthcare Workforce has called for a combination of strategies to address the nation's severe physician shortage.

In a viewpoint published in the current special issue of JAMA, The Journal of American Medical Association, Richard A. Cooper, M.D., details the factors that have caused the shortage and urges the medical community to press for changes. JAMA’s “Critical Issues in US Health Care” includes articles and 11 viewpoints that explore the challenges facing the US health care system.  

“There is little that can be done to materially correct the near-term situation, but it is imperative that some combination of strategies be undertaken for the long-term,” Cooper writes. “To do nothing ignores powerful economic and demographic trends and leaves future generations to ponder why they and their loved ones must experience illness without access to competent and caring physicians.”

journal of the american medical association

Cooper argues that physician surpluses projected in the 1980s and 1990s did not take into account medical breakthroughs, such as stents, MRIs, or knee replacements widely used today, thus underestimating demand for medical care. Yet, he said, those projections served to strengthen legislative efforts to cap the number of Medicare-supported residency positions.

There is little political will to lift those caps, Cooper notes, even though he believes that increasing residencies is the best solution.

“It’s so destabilizing for that not to happen,” he said. “That should be the main strategy. If you need more doctors, you train more of them. That’s just logical.”

Among the other solutions, writes Cooper in “Unraveling the Physician Supply Dilemma,” are streamlining residency training for some specialties and changing the nation’s requirements for internationally trained physicians to practice here.

“People are going to have to start talking about the possibility of new pathways for foreign physicians to gain entry in practice in the US,” Cooper said in an interview. “Unless people can come up with another solution, that is the default solution.”

While nurse practitioners and physician assistants are taking a larger role in the healthcare labor force, they are not expected to fill the gap, Cooper added.

He also disagrees with those who claim that the problem is simply one of waste and inefficiency, leading to high health care spending, and that fewer physicians are actually needed. Although there is a continuing need to improve health care, said Cooper, high spending is mostly concentrated in areas of poverty where needs are greatest. 

“Policy makers have conflated waste and poverty and, as a result, are failing to assure a sufficient supply of physicians, while also failing to address the underlying needs of the poor,” Cooper said.

About NYIT

New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) offers 90 degree programs, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees, in more than 50 fields of study, including architecture and design; arts and sciences; education; engineering and computing sciences; health professions; management; and osteopathic medicine. A non-profit independent, private institution of higher education, NYIT has 13,000 students attending campuses on Long Island and Manhattan, online, and at its global campuses. NYIT sponsors 11 NCAA Division II programs and one Division I team. 

Led by President Edward Guiliano, NYIT is guided by its mission to provide career-oriented professional education, offer access to opportunity to all qualified students, and support applications-oriented research that benefits the larger world. To date, 95,000 graduates have received degrees from NYIT. For more information, visit New York Institute of Technology at


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