Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

SPH awarded $2.25 million to train public health physicians

The School of Public Health (SPH) has received a $2.25 million dollar grant from the federal government to expand its preventive medicine residency to help combat an estimated 35,000 shortfall of primary care physicians expected within 10 years.

"I consider this new funding as a validation of our program as one of the best nationally, and will permit us to expand to a full complement of 12 physician residents over the next three years," says Matthew Boulton, director of the Preventive Medicine Residency program and associate professor of epidemiology, preventive medicine, and health management and policy at SPH. Boulton also is associate professor of internal medicine at the Medical School.

When totaled for the three-year period, SPH was given the largest grant, according to the Health and Human Services website.

At 41 years old, SPH houses one of the oldest preventive medicine residency programs in the country. Its mission is to train physicians for careers in public health, clinical preventive medicine, medical epidemiology and health administration.

"Generating an adequate number of primary care physicians is a problem nationwide and Michigan is no exception," Boulton says. One of the aspects of the SPH grant proposal that resonated with Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration, which administers the grants, was having residents rotate through HRSA-funded Community Health Centers in Lansing, Jackson and Detroit, which provide care to poor and underserved residents.

"We committed our residents to spending at least three months of their training providing primary care services in those settings," Boulton says. "HRSA really liked the idea and we are excited to embark on this new partnership with the CHCs."

Boulton says physicians interested in board specialization in general preventive medicine and public health should consider the SPH two-year residency, which has available MPH tracks in epidemiology, health behavior/education, health management/policy, and environmental health sciences.

The funding began in August 2010. The U-M SPH Preventive Medicine Residency received a national award as Outstanding Educational Program of the Year from the Association of Prevention Teaching and Research at the 2008 National Prevention Conference.

According to a news release by HHS, the $168 million Primary Care Residency Expansion initiative is part of a larger total aimed at expanding the primary care work force in response to a projected shortfall of primary care physicians. The anticipated shortage stems from a combination of an aging population and increasing number of Americans who receive health insurance.

The money will fund 82 accredited primary care residency training programs to increase the number of residents trained in general pediatrics, general internal medicine, and family medicine. Grant recipients will use the five-year grant to provide stipend support for new enrollees in three-year primary care residency training programs. By 2015, the program will support the training of 889 new primary care residents over the number currently being trained and more than 500 of these residents will have completed their training.

The money is part of $320 million in awards announced in September by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to strengthen the health care work force. Of that, $253 million will go to improve and expand the primary care work force under the Prevention and Public Health Fund of the Affordable Care Act. Another $67 million in Health Profession Opportunity Grants will provide low-income individuals with education, training and supportive services that will help them prepare to enter and advance in careers in the health care sector.