There is a shortage of primary care providers in the United States, and it’s expected to to get worse. The communities hardest hit by this shortage are rural, lower income, uninsured and historically underserved. This is not a small portion of the population, but rather, 57 million individuals living in 5,864 designated shortage areas.
Several solutions are needed to address a health equity issue this large. The MedServe program of North Carolina offers an innovative example of how an AmeriCorps program can help make a dent in these numbers.
Many of MedServe members are considering a future in medicine, and the program’s founders, Anne Steptoe and Patrick O’Shea, hope the program will provide transformative experiences for its members that may tip the scale in favor of primary care.
“MedServe excited me because I’m passionate about mitigating health disparities in medically underserved communities and understanding how community-based care intersects with clinical health outcomes.”Sami Strutner, a 2018 MedServe Fellow
MedServe’s “mission is to immediately improve the health of communities and vitality of primary care practices while exposing tomorrow’s most promising future providers to the great potential for community impact possible through primary care practice in “medically underserved” communities,” according to their website.
“We see a future where every medical student starts his or her medical education seeing the full potential of great community-based primary care. For too long, medical education has largely been separated from the transformative work being done in smaller communities. We believe that immersion in the best of rural and other community-based primary care is a necessary step to encouraging the next generation of primary care providers.”
“I wanted an opportunity to both learn about and contribute to the provision of healthcare in ways that account for and address social determinants of health, especially in underserved communities.”Claire Chang, 2018 MedServe Fellow
Many MedServe Fellows are recent pre-med college graduates, and through this program they are afforded the opportunity to provide direct service in a clinical or community health role prior to embarking on their medical school journey.