Shortage of doctors predicted for U.S. by 2020

Despite a surge in the expansion of and building new medical schools, two national reports say the country is heading for a physician shortage.

It's a shortage that, depending on which report one reads, could see the nation short 91,500 physicians by 2020. That estimate is from a June 2010 report from the Association of American Medical Colleges.

State and local officials don't doubt that there will be a greater demand for health care — and physicians — in the coming years.

After all, a greater proportion of the population is aging to the point at which it will need to access more health care more often. That aging population also will live longer because of advances in medicine, meaning not only will those people need more services, but they'll need them for a longer period than past generations.

And officials think that as implementation of the federal health reform law continues, more people will have access to more health care services, and they will use them.

But experts differ on whether Kansas' effort to train more doctors will succeed in meeting the increased demand, at least in the short term.

H. David Wilson, dean of the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, is overseeing an expansion of the local campus to a four-year program.

Previously the school trained only third- and fourth-year medical students, with all students spending their first two years at the school's main campus in Kansas City.

In July, the Wichita campus will receive its first freshman class of medical school students. Wilson said he hopes that in a few years, its freshman class size will consistently be at 50 students.

Between the expansion of the Wichita campus and one in Salina, he said he thinks that will be enough to eventually meet increasing demand in Kansas. He also thinks medical school projects in California, Florida, Michigan and other states will help to counter any long-term physician shortage nationally.

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