Innovative Program Tackles Shortage in Primary Care

June 2, 2010

Contact: Kimberley Colvin, (919) 765-3005

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Innovative Program Tackles Shortage in Primary Care

Robust physician mentoring program shapes future of primary care

  • U.S. will need 39,000 more family physicians by 2020
  • North Carolina will need 4,700 family physicians by 2020

Chapel Hill, N.C. – The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation today announced a $1.18 million grant to the N.C. Academy of Family Physicians (NCAFP) Foundation for a mentoring program to help address the shortage of family physicians in North Carolina. Through this grant, NCAFP will increase medical students’ exposure to innovative practice in family medicine and encourage more of the state’s medical students to pursue a career in family medicine, ultimately ensuring that more North Carolinians have access to high quality primary care.

Recently passed health care reform legislation will increase the number of North Carolinians who are insured and who seek regular primary care, exacerbating the shortfall of primary care physicians. A 2006 American Academy of Family Physicians Workforce Study estimated that the United States will need approximately 39,000 more family physicians by 2020. North Carolina now has about 2,700 family physicians, with projections indicating the state will need 2,000 more by 2020 in order to address the state’s health care needs. While the number of family physicians in North Carolina is growing, current rates of growth would only meet 75 percent of the projected need.

“Communities across North Carolina work hard to attract quality physicians to provide primary care for our citizens,” said Brad Wilson, chairman of the BCBSNC Foundation. “However, we are already faced with a national shortage of primary care physicians, and the recently passed health care reform legislation will mean an increase in the number of folks seeking care. We hope that through this initiative, North Carolina medical students will receive the help and incentive they need to make a commitment to family medicine.”

The $1.18 million grant supports the establishment of the Family Medicine Interest and Scholars Program, a two-tiered effort to help increase the number of North Carolina-trained medical students who elect family medicine residency programs and go on to practice in the state.

“With the urgent need for more primary care physicians, we are proud to support a program that will have a real impact on this state,” added Kathy Higgins, president of the BCBSNC Foundation. “Identifying students early who are interested in a career in family medicine and helping them reach that goal will in-turn benefit communities all across North Carolina.”

The program aims to increase the percentage of medical students who commit to a residency in family medicine by approximately 30 percent and the percent of those who elect to stay in the state for their residency training from 56 percent in 2008 to at least two-thirds over the length of the six-year program. This grant is expected to yield a significant return on investment. According to the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies, the annual economic impact of one new family physician to the state of North Carolina is more than $950,000.

The program will provide North Carolina medical students with role models in family medicine, pairing them with innovative family physicians in clinical practice settings. These physician mentors will work with students for three consecutive years to strengthen skills, offer guidance and help fast-track their health care leadership training and experience.

The program also targets a broader audience of medical students to increase interest in family medicine by improving and increasing interaction between practicing family physicians and students at each of North Carolina’s four medical schools.

"The North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians is committed to improving primary and family health care in North Carolina and our hope is that this program sparks the health care industry to look for more innovative ways to address the primary care shortage in our state,” said Greg Griggs, executive vice president, NCAFP. “We understand that pursuing family medicine is often not an easy choice for medical students. We believe this grant will help make family medicine more of an option for North Carolina medical students. And the access to dedicated mentors will help these students provide quality medical care to patients across the state."

Students who participate in the scholars program will also receive additional exposure to family medicine throughout their schooling, including additional clinical experiences, and will have the opportunity to access scholarship funding if they ultimately enter a family medicine residency program.

The NCAFP Foundation has identified the students and mentors participating in the program for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Students - Hometown - Medical School
Corrie BurkeLithonia, GAUNC School of Medicine
Hannah FuhrBad Kreuznach, Germany Brody School of Medicine at ECU
Kelley HavenGreenville, NCBrody School of Medicine at ECU
Samantha HeuertzCharlotte, NCUNC School of Medicine
Ashley HinkRaleigh, NCBrody School of Medicine at ECU
Holly LoveMount Pleasant, NCBrody School of Medicine at ECU
William MartinWinterville, NCUNC School of Medicine
Brian MooreChapel Hill, NCUNC School of Medicine
Brian SandersGreensboro, NCWake Forest University School of Medicine
Daniel WhiteJohnson City, TNUNC School of Medicine
Patrick WilliamsHickory, NCBrody School of Medicine at ECU
Physician Mentors - Location - Practice
Mark E. Beamer, MDBelhaven, NCPungo Family Medicine, PA
Sara O. Beyer, MDCharlotte, NCSteele Creek Family Practice
Jonathan E. Fischer, MDCarrboro, NCPiedmont Health Services
Conrad L. Flick, MDRaleigh, NCFamily Medical Associates of Raleigh
Brian R. Forrest, MDApex, NCAccess Healthcare
Elizabeth P. Fry, MDGreenville, NCPhysicians East
Michelle F. Jones, MDWilmington, NCWilmington Health Associates
David E. Lee, MDLewisville, NCFamily Medical Associates
J. Thomas Newton, MDClinton, NCClinton Medical Clinic, Inc.
Charles W. Rhodes, MDMount Pleasant, NCCabarrus Family Medicine
J. Carson Rounds, MDWake Forest, NCVillage Family Medicine

About North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians:
The North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians, Inc. (NCAFP) is a non-profit professional association headquartered in Raleigh representing nearly 2,700 family physicians, family medicine residents and medical students across North Carolina. It is the largest medical specialty association in North Carolina and is a constituent chapter of the 94,700 member-strong American Academy of Family Physicians, based in Leawood, Kansas.

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is a separate, independent, nonprofit Foundation dedicated to improving the health and well-being of North Carolinians. The Foundation's focus areas include: Health of Vulnerable Populations - improving health outcomes of populations served by safety net organizations; Healthy Active Communities - increasing physical activity and encouraging healthy eating habits; and Community Impact through Nonprofit Excellence - increasing the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations.  BCBSNC Foundation invests programs and services in response to grant requests and proactively creates initiatives or partners with organizations to address specific needs. It also coordinates several Signature Programs, among them, the Be Active Kids® and Healthy Community Institute for Nonprofit Excellence.  More information is available at

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