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As Physician Shortage Looms, Recognize Your Doctor On March 30, National Doctors' Day
Date:3/27/2009

EAST LANSING, Mich., March 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In Michigan, there are not enough jobs in manufacturing and construction, but the one area in which demand continues to overshadow supply is health care, particularly physicians.

The health care needs of an aging population coupled with the difficulty of becoming a doctor have led to a considerable physician shortage in Michigan, a problem that is projected to get worse, according to the Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS).

Those fortunate enough to have access to a primary care physician or even a specialist may want to recognize those who care for them and their families on March 30, National Doctors' Day.

National Doctors' Day has been held annually since 1933 to honor physicians who dedicate their careers to the care of their patients and to advancing medical knowledge. The first Doctors' Day honored Crawford W. Long, M.D., of Georgia, who discovered the use of ether as an anesthetic in surgery in 1842. Previously, surgery was done without any painkillers.

"Being a physician is one of the most rewarding professions, but it is also one of the most demanding," said Michael A. Sandler, M.D., president of the 15,000-member MSMS and a diagnostic radiologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Unfortunately, Michigan could see a shortage of 4,500 to 6,000 physicians by 2020, according to recent studies by MSMS and the state's four medical schools.

"A combination of factors has led to a physician shortage throughout the country and in Michigan, among them time commitment, tuition costs, and medical liability concerns," Doctor Sandler said. "Because it takes so long to educate and train a physician, even if we acted today to address the problem, we wouldn't see results until about 2020. It's critical that our state does everything possible to make Michigan a great place to practice medicine."

"National Doctors' Day is a wonderful opportunity for everyone to recognize those individuals who dedicate their lives to taking care of us and our loved ones," said MSMS Alliance President Lakshmi Tummala of Flint. "We, the spouses of physicians, understand just how much time and energy is given by physicians to their patients and to their communities."

Many people do not know that the title "doctor" before a name does not necessarily mean that the person is a physician. Physicians are individuals who have earned a degree and fulfilled other requirements to practice medicine as an allopathic physician (M.D.) or an osteopathic physician (D.O.).

Because there are so many types of care currently offered by people who have had training that permits them to be called "doctor," it is important for patients to understand the qualifications of physicians, that is, M.D.s and D.O.s.

Becoming a physician takes at least 11 years of schooling and sometimes 13 years or more. To be a licensed M.D. or D.O., one must first graduate with a bachelor's degree from an accredited four-year college, then graduate from an accredited medical school, generally a four-year program. Then the physician-in-training serves three to seven years as a "resident physician" on a hospital staff where medical teaching programs are offered. At this point, the young physician studies one of many medical specialties from family practice to brain surgery.

A physician also must successfully complete a comprehensive examination for licensure by the state Board of Medical Examiners. Maintaining the ethical standards of the profession and continuing medical education throughout his or her career also are required.


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SOURCE Michigan State Medical Society
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