SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA) — U.S. Senator John Boozman of Arkansas joined local leaders and health care experts at the Northwest Arkansas Summit Monday, August 12, to discuss the shortage of physician residency positions in Arkansas.

After graduation, medical school graduates are required to complete residency training before they can practice medicine, but right now there’s a shortage of these positions nationwide.

Senator Boozman said due to this lack of availability, Arkansas is having a difficult time retaining the primary care and specialized care physicians who obtained their undergraduate degrees in the natural state. “The problem is, is once they get through with their basic training they have to do a residency program and we don’t have enough slots.”

According to Boozman about 50% of med-school grads are going out-of-state to complete their residency.

Chancellor Cam Patterson with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences said the key to keeping Arkansas-trained medical school graduates is by increasing access to training, and money.

“We need funding for the support of more residency positions,” Chancellor Patterson said, “but we also need the experiential training of these physicians.”

Senator Boozman recently introduced the “Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act” in an effort to increase the number of residencies available nationwide. “It actually introduces 3,000 more slots per [fiscal] year for five years.”

“The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act” would lift the federal cap imposed by the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 which limits the number of medicare-funded residencies.

If passed, the ultimate goal of the bill is to grow the number of residencies available by 15,000 by 2025. “With the help of the government, we can introduce more slots and thus retain more of the people that we’re training,” said Senator Boozman.