MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Senator Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) has introduced a bill in the Alabama Senate that seeks to establish a scholarship program for medical students who will practice medicine in rural Alabama. If approved, the Alabama Physician Initiative (Senate Bill 210) would authorize the Alabama Medical Education Consortium to administer up to 25 scholarships annually to medical students who are on a family practice track and attending a college of medicine located in Alabama. The scholarships would pay tuition for up to four years.
“There is a shortage of physicians in rural Alabama, especially family practice doctors,” Stutts, a practicing OB-GYN physician, remarked on Wednesday afternoon. “The aim of SB210 is to incentivize our in-state medical students to stay in Alabama and practice medicine in under-served counties.”
In 2017, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) issued a report showing that Alabama has only 76 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, the 7th-lowest rate of primary care physicians in the country. As reported by Forbes, Dr. Atul Grover, AAMC’s chief publicity officer, stated, “We do have concerns when the numbers get below 100 primary care physicians per 100,000 people. I’m worried people aren’t going to have access to primary care.”
Under Stutts’ proposal, to qualify for the medical scholarships, prospective family care physicians must commit to practicing in a rural county for at least five years upon completing a medical residency program. Sixty-two of Alabama’s sixty-seven counties meet the federal definition of marginally under-served healthcare communities.
“It is imperative that we open up the recruiting pipeline of quality doctors to rural Alabama,” said Paul Storey, President of Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield. “I have been in healthcare for 26 years, and the challenge of recruiting physicians to rural areas has never been harder. I appreciate Senator Stutts carrying this legislation – it’s an innovative idea that will increase the number of doctors practicing in rural Alabama.”
Stutts’ bill has thirteen co-sponsors, including four Democratic state senators; the bill is awaiting a vote in the Alabama Senate’s Finance and Taxation (Education) committee.
Dr. Larry Stutts represents Senate District 6, comprised of all or parts of Marion, Lawrence, Lauderdale, Colbert, and Franklin counties, in the Alabama State Senate. He and his wife, Jackie, make their home in Tuscumbia.