CONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8032; fax (319) 384-4638
Release: Aug. 24, 2001
'Last dance' for UI Family Practice Fair is Aug. 25
in Des Moines
For the past quarter-century collaborative efforts
between the University of Iowa College of Medicine, regional hospitals and
practicing physicians have focused on training family doctors for Iowa communities.
These efforts have been successful by any standard. The state has more than
1,200 family doctors, which is more than a quarter of all physicians in Iowa.
Of these family practitioners, 1,000 have completed three-year residency programs
to specialize in family practice.
In fact, Iowa has done so well at training family
physicians and placing them in Iowa communities that this year's 25th
Family Practice Opportunities Fair -- an event that brings together family
physicians and physician assistants in training with representatives from
medical practices around the state -- will be the last.
The fair, hosted by the UI College of Medicine and
the Iowa Family Practice Residents Council, will take place from 1 to 5 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 25 at the Polk County Convention Center in Des Moines.
"One community physician who will represent his medical
group at the fair this weekend referred to it as the 'last dance,' said Roger
Tracy, UI College of Medicine assistant dean and director of the college's
Office of Statewide Clinical Education Programs.
The first fair was held in 1977 when practicing physicians
and community leaders met in Des Moines with family physicians training in
the UI Family Practice Residency Network. The network has eight residency
programs in seven major Iowa communities. Dozens of Iowa towns and medical
groups exhibited their practice opportunities. Twenty-four fairs later, the
event has served its original purpose of connecting newly minted family physicians
with Iowa practice opportunities.
This does not mean that there isn't a need for more
family doctors in Iowa, Tracy said.
"There will always be a need to replace family physicians
who retire or relocate to other states. But today the demand for family physicians
is far less severe than it was in the 1970s and 80s," he said. "Training family
physicians for Iowa has been a top priority in our state for more than 25
years and that emphasis will not wane with the conclusion of this year's fair.
The eight training programs in our statewide network will continue to train
family physicians to meet Iowas future needs."
The past success has resulted in Iowa having fewer
practice opportunities for family doctors but that is only part of the reason
for the decision to stop the practice opportunities fair, Tracy noted. Most
of Iowa's primary care practitioners are now associated with regional networks
that have their own full-time physician recruitment staff. Family doctors
in Iowa who not affiliated with physician networks often are employed instead
by their community's local hospital. In short, it has become easier in recent
years for communities to attract young physicians into practice. Thus, the
need for the Opportunities Fair just isn't as great as it was in the past,
Evidence of the success of the statewide training
program is reflected in the rate at which small towns are attracting young
family doctors. Over the past five years, 466 family physicians have entered
Iowa practices. Nearly one-third (143) of the total entered towns with populations
under 5,000. Towns with populations under 15,000 attracted 58 percent of the
new doctors, partly because there are fewer and fewer opportunities in metropolitan
In the year ending last December, Iowa attracted 102
new family doctors while losing 70, mostly to retirement and relocation. Statistically,
the 70 were replaced along with a net gain of 32. Nearly half of the net gain
occurred in Iowa towns with populations under 5,000 quite a change
from a recently as 10 years ago, Tracy said.
"Some of the small towns that hadn't succeeded in
attracting physicians during the past 10 or 15 years now have success stories
to tell," he said. "Emmetsburg has added one or more family physicians for
three straight years. Cresco has succeeded for two straight years. Kingsley
replaced both of its family doctors on the same day last year, and Osage and
Sheldon had consecutive years of successful recruitment in the recent past."
The UI College of Medicine has completed its 25th
annual survey establishing the exact number of practice opportunities for
various medical specialties, physician assistants and family nurse practitioners.
While the numbers change periodically, Tracy indicated that as of this month
Iowa is offering 83 family practice opportunities in 64 communities. "Compare
that to 334 jobs in 1988 in 163 towns, and you can see we have come a long
way," he said.
The fair truly made a difference over its 25-year
life span, Tracy said. Al Kollasch, M.D., participated in the first fair in
1977. Then a senior family practice resident training at the UI, Kollasch
met Belmond representatives during the fair, and Kollasch has been practicing
ever since. There are also accounts of communities that
have had multiple successes at the fair. For example, Atlantic physicians
and hospital representatives used the fair to establish relationships that
led to several physicians choosing Atlantic for their practice, Tracy said.
The UI Department of Family Medicine and the affiliated
residency programs will continue training tomorrow's family doctors. "We just
won't need 'the dance' to make their efforts pay off for Iowa," said Tracy,
who has helped organize the Opportunities Fair since its inception. "Every
year the fair has been a challenge for our hard working staff, but it's been
University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership
between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the
patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.
Visit UI Health Care online at www.uihealthcare.com.