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The federal government is making a push to expand residency programs, with the Department of Health and Human Services announcing more than $155 million in awards for 72 teaching health centers that operate primary care medical and dental residency programs. These programs will include high-need specialties such as psychiatry.

Administered through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the awards are being funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and Fiscal Year 2022 funds.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra framed the move as a key part of the administration’s plan to address health inequities in underserved and vulnerable communities, in part by increasing the number of residents training in community health centers and other outpatient community clinics.

“We will continue to expand the primary care workforce supply line to help meet community needs,” said Becerra.

HRSA Administrator Carole Johnson said the effort will contribute to a stronger primary care and mental health workforce.

“The American Rescue Plan has been a game-changer for growing this critical program and helping us build a workforce that best reflects and serves the communities that need these resources the most,” said Johnson.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT

The awards include $135 million in American Rescue Plan funds to support existing and new teaching health centers to create additional resident positions; and $20 million in Fiscal Year 2022 funds to support existing Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education residency programs to continue resident training in the upcoming academic year.

HRSA’s Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program focuses on supporting residents in primary care residency training programs to meet the medical and mental health care needs of rural and underserved communities. It currently includes more than 970 full-time residents.

Previous HRSA investments under the American Rescue Plan are supporting the planning and development of additional teaching health center primary care residency programs.

THE LARGER TREND

This isn’t the first time the current administration has made a push to expand medical residency slots. In December, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services distributed 1,000 new medical residency slots in hospitals serving rural and underserved communities.

The additional residency program positions are to address hospital labor shortages, particularly for hospitals serving rural and underserved communities.

Doctors are most likely to practice in the areas where they do their residencies, said Director of the Center for Medicare, Dr. Meena Seshamani. 

“Having additional residents train in the very areas that need the most support can, not only bolster the numbers of providers in these underserved areas, but also train them with a unique understanding of the specific needs of these communities,” Seshamani said in a statement.
 

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