AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Many students attending medical school in the area are leaving the Panhandle for their residencies.
About 50 students graduate each year from Amarillo's Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Of those 50, only 5 to 10 of them will remain in the Panhandle to pursue further training.
However, TTUHSC always fills each residency slot available. About 10 to 20 percent of the slots are filled by their graduates, and the rest is filled from graduates from other colleges.
Many graduates venture to larger cities in Texas or elsewhere to complete their medical residencies, a time when they practice medicine under the direct or indirect supervision of an attending physician.
Medical students participate in a residency match process where they apply to different hospital or clinic programs they are interested in and interview with them.
Once the interviews are complete, both the program and the candidate create a rank list of their top choices. Then, the National Resident Matching Program takes those lists and matches a candidate with a program through a computer algorithm.
On Mar. 18, students partake in Match Day, a day when students across that nation learn where they will train for the next three to seven years.
Rodney Young, Professor and Regional Chair at TTUHSC, said students practicing something other than family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, ob/gyn have to leave the Panhandle to complete their residencies.
"For doctors that want to be surgeons, ear, nose, and throat [specialists], psychiatrist, or any other specialty they have to leave the Panhandle to go find that training," Young said. "The number of them that return depends a lot on the extent to which they have roots in the Panhandle and also on market forces."
He said some physicians may not return to the area if positions are not available in their specialized fields.
Statistically, physicians are more likely to locate their practices near the places they receive training. However, that does not mean they will not come back in the area to practice medicine.
"Each year we'll graduate several people who will leave to do residency either because they have reasons to look in another area or because that's just the fate of the match," Young said. "But having roots in Amarillo causes several of them to choose to come back here"
Young said sometimes students who attend Texas Tech return to practice in the area because they were from Panhandle and wanted to be able to train close to home.
Young said even students not from the area will sometimes return because they had a good experience in medical school and wish to continue their career in this environment.
TTUHSC has developed a program to try to keep doctors in the area.
The Family Medicine Accelerated Track is a curriculum where students receive training to become a board certified family physician in six years instead of seven years. Through that time the students get to know the staff and work flow, which can help pair the school and student in the matching process.
"You've worked with them on a day-to-day basis and they've come to know they people who they would be working around in residency," Young said. "So if we know those individuals and like them and they know us, often times that give us a leg up in the match process where they'll decide there is a home field advantage to staying here and training."
Young said the program has helped keep doctors in the Panhandle. Two students graduating from the program this year will practice medicine in Canyon and Tulia.