HHS invests $11 million to expand medical residencies in rural communities

July 27, 2023

On July 26, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), awarded nearly $11 million to 15 awardees to strengthen the health workforce by establishing new residency programs in rural communities.  

“Training residents in rural areas leads more medical school graduates to stay and practice in rural settings,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “There's a shortage of doctors across the nation, especially in our most underserved communities, and these rural residency development grants will help address this shortage.”

Nearly 70 percent of areas designated as primary medical Health Professional Shortage Areas are in rural areas. Physician shortages, poverty, and geographic isolation contribute to lack of access to care and poorer health outcomes for rural Americans. More than half of rural U.S. counties lack hospital obstetric services. In response to the declining access to rural maternal healthcare, three of today’s 15 awards will be used specifically to develop new family medicine residency programs with enhanced obstetrical training in rural communities. 

“Through HRSA’s decades of work supporting access to healthcare in rural communities, we know that rural residency programs help ensure that qualified doctors train and stay in the rural communities that need them,” said HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson. “This funding will help build the pipeline of doctors who have experience with the unique needs and challenges of working in rural areas, particularly rural women who face increased barriers to high-quality maternal healthcare before, during, and after pregnancy.”   

Award recipients will each receive up to $750,000 to establish new rural residency programs. This funding may be used to support accreditation costs, curriculum development, faculty recruitment and retention, resident recruitment activities, and consultation services to support program development (e.g., financing). Throughout the duration of their grant, award recipients will have access to one-on-one advisor support, tools, and resources provided by the HRSA funded Rural Residency Planning and Development Technical Assistance Center to navigate the various stages of program development.  

Retaining and recruiting physicians in underserved and rural areas remains a critical priority of the Biden-Harris Administration. Today’s awards build on over $43 million that HRSA invested in the Rural Residency Planning and Development program from fiscal year 2019 through 2022.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has also been taking critical steps to advance health equity and access to care. In January 2023, CMS awarded the first 200 of 1,000 new Medicare-funded physician residency slots. In allocating these new residency slots, CMS prioritized hospitals with training programs in geographic areas demonstrating the greatest need for additional providers, as determined by Health Professional Shortage Areas. CMS is also working to implement the new residency slots for psychiatry positions in fiscal year 2025 that Congress established in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023.  

For fiscal year 2024, CMS proposed that rural emergency hospitals (REHs) could be designated as graduate medical education training sites. As a result, more medical residents would be able to train in rural settings, which can help address workforce shortages in these communities. This proposal builds on other policies to support access to care in rural and other underserved communities. These changes, if finalized, would help support graduate medical training in rural areas by allowing these rural hospitals to serve as training sites for Medicare GME payment purposes after they become REHs.

In addition to today’s awards, HRSA has a variety of programs that have strengthened the rural health workforce in fiscal year 2023.  

For a detailed breakdown of today’s awards, visit: https://www.hrsa.gov/rural-health/grants/rural-health-research-policy/rrpd/awards.  

HHS has the release.

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