The TSET Board of Directors has voted to extend a contract with the Physician Manpower Training Commission to recruit and retain physicians in rural Oklahoma for an additional five years.

The new agreement with the Physician Manpower Training Commission will allow an additional 42 physicians to be placed in rural and medically underserved areas. TSET funds are matched by hospitals, cities, insurance providers and banks to ensure that physicians are placed in communities that have difficulty recruiting physicians.

“The partnership with the Physician Manpower Training Commission complements our efforts to improve health in all areas of the state,” said TSET Board of Directors Vice-Chair, Michelle Stephens. “Working hand-in-hand with PMTC to address the physician shortage in areas where health care is scarce provides support to our state’s rural health infrastructure which we know is key to improving health outcomes.”

Doctors who participate in this program can receive up to $160,000 in medical school loan repayment if they practice in an underserved area for up to four years. This program addresses the critical need for primary care physicians in rural Oklahoma and helps retain medical doctors in Oklahoma.

To date, a total of 48 physicians have been placed. Eight physicians have completed the four-year term of service and continue to practice in the rural area where they were placed.

Since the start of the program in 2013, doctors have conducted more than 264,000 patient visits. In addition, doctors participating in the program see patients enrolled in SoonerCare. Doctors enrolled in the loan repayment program have conducted over 80,000 SoonerCare patient visits and have referred more than 9,000 patients to free cessation coaching and services through the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, a program also funded by TSET.

"The extension of this partnership will ensure that a steady pipeline of physicians in rural Oklahoma remains," said Richard Evans, PMTC executive director. "TSET has been vital to the support of PMTC for years and we are proud of the strides made in supporting rural health access through the Oklahoma Medical Loan Repayment Program. We look forward to placing more physicians in rural and medically underserved areas of our state as the program continues.”

Applicants for the Oklahoma Medical Loan Repayment Program must be a primary care physician, which includes family medicine, geriatrics, general internal medicine, general pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology or emergency medicine. 

Each primary care physician in rural Oklahoma will generate an estimated 23 full-time jobs that contribute about $1.5 million each year to the local economy, according to an analysis by PMTC.