February 10, 2022, 11:44 a.m. News Staff — Marking a significant victory for AAFP advocacy, the Health Resources and Services Administration announced Feb. 3 that it would allocate $19.2 million from the American Rescue Plan to strengthen community-based residency programs for primary care and dental residents in rural and underserved areas.
The outlay will fund 120 full-time residents participating in the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program, which supports training in community-based care settings — and which the Academy has for years worked to strengthen.
It’s the latest Academy win on the path to bolster the family medicine workforce through THCGME expansion, following the American Rescue Plan Act’s investment of $330 million in the program and a three-year extension passed in 2020 with the AAFP’s support. The Academy has long called the program crucial to the training of new primary care physicians, reinforcing the physician pipeline and providing health care to communities most in need.
Echoing the AAFP, HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson said in a press release accompanying the announcement that training physicians in community settings “is helping us to build a stronger primary care workforce that better supports the communities served.” The $19.2 million, she added, “will help us to grow the number of primary care residents training and practicing in underserved communities, a critical step toward expanding access to high-quality health care and advancing health equity.”
HRSA’s announcement acknowledged another key Academy argument in favor of robust THCGME funding: that the program’s graduates are more likely to continue practicing primary care and serving in medically underserved communities than those in Medicare GME-supported programs. Two-thirds of the program’s graduates continue to practice primary care, the agency noted.
“The THCGME program is, without question, one of the most successful, efficiently run programs in the country,” the Academy has repeatedly told lawmakers. “It is a mission-focused program that has a proven track record of achieving its legislative mandate of training the next generation of primary care physicians. Since its inception, this program has successfully trained more than 1,148 primary care physicians and dentists, 65% of whom are family physicians, who, in return, have established practices and provided high-quality care to millions of Americans.”
The Academy continues to press for passage of the Doctors of Community Act (H.R. 3671, S. 1958), which would permanently extend THCGME funding and allow the creation of 100 new teaching health centers.