Medical Schools Say Arizona Needs More Residency Programs

July 07, 2014

(Photo by Carrie Jung - KJZZ)
Dean of the University of Arizona's College of Medicine in Phoenix, Stuart Flynn stands with first year medical student Matthew DeLesia. Flynn says the state needs about 1,000 additional residency slots.

Monday marked the first day of class for first-year medical students at the University of Arizona’s Phoenix campus. The program has grown since last year, but officials remain concerned that students won’t be able to stay in the state after graduation.

Physician shortage is a chronic problem in Arizona. In 2013, the Association of American Medical Colleges ranked the state 43rd in the country for the number of primary care physicians per capita.

In an effort to remedy the problem, the state has encouraged medical schools here to expand student capacity.

But Stuart Flynn, the dean of the University of Arizona’s college of medicine in Phoenix said that may not be enough to make a difference, as post-graduation training slots, also known as residencies, are still relatively hard to come by in Arizona.

"It’s really the thing that has to be now addressed with some urgency, quite honestly," said Flynn. "So right now, we have about 1,500 training slots in the state and we need about 2,500. We’re becoming a great farm system for the rest of the country."

For first-year medical student Kimberly Weidenbach, whose family lives in Phoenix, that’s a scary statistic.

"Obviously, entering medical school, that’s going to be one of my worries is making sure I can find a residency in Arizona because I would like to stay in state," Weidenbach said.

According to Flynn, when graduates take residency programs outside of Arizona only 25 percent of them return to the state.