General Assembly approves legislation to increase the number of primary care physicians in Tennessee’s rural communities

NASHVILLE — A bill designed to increase the number of primary care physicians in Tennessee’s rural communities was approved by the General Assembly today.  Senate Bill 298, sponsored by Senator Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville), establishes residency opportunities focusing on family practice, general pediatrics, internal medicine and psychiatry to provide medical and behavioral health services in Tennessee’s underserved and distressed rural counties. 

“Over the past 25 years, the population of Tennessee has doubled, but the number of primary care physician residencies remains frozen at the same amount because of the lack of federal funding since 1996,” said Sen. Briggs, who is a physician.  “Under this legislation, rural hospitals and community health centers will have access to these residents which has been needed for a long time.  When these physicians settle in our rural communities, they bring not only improved health care to area citizens, but they also bring great economic benefit.  It also incentivizes physicians to stay in these rural communities after they complete their residencies.”  

Briggs said approximately 60% to 70% of doctors stay in the communities where they train.  Current workforce projections show Tennessee with a doctor shortage of 1,050 by 2025.    

The residencies will be open to all graduates of University of Tennessee schools, Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University.  Residents will be approved by the National Accreditation Agency for Graduate Medical Education (GME).  The program requires the residencies be open to all qualified candidates and filled through the existing matching process employed by the GME.  In addition, the bill establishes residencies through Lincoln Memorial University which offers osteopathic medicine instruction.  The new residencies will be distributed across all grand divisions of the state.  Both programs will be conducted in cooperation with the Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC).

The 2021-2022 state budget passed last week by the legislature provided an increase of $5.5 million to fund the residencies.  The legislation now goes to Governor Bill Lee’s desk for his signature.

About Brad Jones

Brad is the Owner/Operator of BBB TV 12, and has been with the company since August of 1996. Brad is a 1987 graduate of Coalfield High School and a 1995 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Communications. He won the 1995 broadcast production student of the year award. Brad worked at Shop at Home, Inc. a home shopping network that was located in Knoxville, TN from 1993 - 1995 and then at Via TV (RSTV, Inc.) from 1995 - 1996. After some freelance work in Nashville, Brad joined the BBB Communications staff in August of 1996. A short stint at WVLT TV as a news photographer was in 2001, but he continued to work at BBB TV as well. Brad is married to Nicole Jenkins Jones, a 1990 graduate of Oak Ridge High School, who works at Oak Ridge Gastroenterology and Associates in Oak Ridge. They have 3 kids, Trevor Bogard, 27, Chandler 22, and Naomi 13. On December 12, 2013 they welcomed their first grandchild, Carter Ryan Bogard. Brad is also the assistant boys basketball coach at Coalfield High School for the past 11 years. In 2013-14 the Yellow Jackets won their first district title since 1991 and just the 4th in school history.

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