Luring young physicians and dentists to rural communities has long been a challenge. These freshly minted professionals tend to have other priorities.
Tops on the list: making a dent in a six-figure student loan. Next up, moving to an area that offers amenities missed while spending several years buried in books and internships.
In response, New York set up the “Doctors Across New York” program a decade ago to help place doctors in underserved areas. A bill that recently passed the State Senate would add dentists to the program. The Assembly should consider joining in this effort.
The legislation, sponsored by Catharine Young, R-Olean, allows the Department of Health to recruit dentists and offer them incentives to work in dentist-starved communities.
Dental health is a key component in overall wellness. As the senator’s website stated, “Untreated oral disease can lead to serious health consequences and even life threatening medical emergencies.”
Young founded the Rural Dentistry Pilot Program with the University at Buffalo. The program provides mobile dental services to children in rural communities of Allegany, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties. She has also secured several hundred thousand dollars to support programs designed to attract dentists to rural areas.
In 2014, The News highlighted the physician shortage in upstate communities. A survey by the Hospital Association of New York State cited hospitals with several unfilled openings for primary care physician, a problem affecting the Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse areas. And with not enough replacements for physicians on the brink of retirement, the problem will get worse.
Recruiting doctors and dentists for rural areas and inner cities is hard enough. Western New York’s reputation for harsh winters only makes the job even more difficult.
The “Doctors Across New York” program is attracting doctors to underserved areas. Dentists – and those underserved communities – deserve the same opportunity.