Maine Track works to curb doctor shortage in rural areas of state

Maine Track works to curb doctor shortage in rural areas of state

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Nick Knowland is in his fourth year of a program through Maine Medical Center and Tufts University called Maine Track.

The idea? Get more students into Maine and keep them here; but that goes beyond the city life of Portland.

"We have nine months in a rural hospital people go to Caribou, they go to Lewiston, they go all over the state. There’s just a few of us in these hospitals, we spent nine months each week one day with each specialty effectively," said Knowland.

Part of Knowland's training was done in Farmington, where he gained experience in rural medicine, and made contacts with doctors who are hoping he'll come back when he can.

Maine Track started in 2009. So, in an effort to spread the word of the good that's being done there, medical students have invited members of their community in to learn the makings of a doctor.

Laurie Hyndman is one curious community member learning the ins and outs of medical school, including part of the reason so many new doctors head straight for major hospitals.

"I mean they send you the bill, from the first year it’s like $83,000," said Knowland.

"Most of the physicians here come from outside of Maine and that’s historically been the case so it’s vitally important to grow our pipeline and and try to grow our learners," said Bob Bing-You, Maine Medical Center's Vice President of Medical Education. "Hopefully if they’re from Maine they're much more likely to stay in Maine and practice."

Whether it's the price tag or the exposure, Maine Track is also working to fix that. "Our students will fan out and speak to our elementary students and high school students to get them interested in healthcare careers; not just medicine, but all healthcare careers, and hopefully build that pipeline for those folks interested."

Heidi Walls is in the midst of residency at Maine Med. She also went through the Maine Track program and says it's already working.

"My class alone accepts seven residents a year, and five are from Tufts," said Walls. "That’s five residents out of seven who came to Maine that maybe wouldn't otherwise. I wouldn’t have been able to stay."

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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