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Emmett, Idaho resident Rebecca Smither (left) talks with Dr. Jennifer Petrie (right). Petrie is a graduate of the WWAMI program and now practices in Emmett.

Understanding Idaho's Doctor Shortage

Background

This page is no longer being updated. For ongoing coverage of this topic, go to Boise State Public Radio’s website.

Since at least 2007, Idaho has ranked near the bottom when it comes to the number of doctors working in the state.

The latest available data from the Association of American Medical Colleges ranks Idaho 49th among states.

The Gem State had 184 doctors for every 100,000 people in 2010.

Here’s how our surrounding states stack up:


There are many factors that contribute to Idaho’s physician shortage; there is limited access to medical education in Idaho, salaries tend to be lower, and it’s tougher to recruit in rural areas.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has designated 39 of Idaho’s 44 counties as Health Professional Shortage Areas.

In an effort to encourage more doctors to practice in Idaho, the state subsidizes the cost of medical school for 28 students in Washington and Utah per year.  It also has two incentive programs; the Rural Healthcare Access Program and the Rural Physician Incentive Program.

The Rural Healthcare Access Program is a way for Idaho communities to recruit doctors by offering signing bonuses or student loan repayments, as well as developing tele-health projects and improving access to care.

The Rural Physician Incentive Program is a loan repayment program for doctors who chose to practice in a rural part of the state.  It’s open to doctors from all schools, though preference is given to WWAMI and University of Utah graduates. Doctors are eligible to apply for up to $50,000 of loan repayment.

Latest Posts

How The Immigration Bill Could Help Reverse Idaho’s Doctor Shortage

Stethoscope and Chart Doctor Shortage

The Idaho Statesman has reported on an interesting piece of law tucked into the federal immigration reform package. It’s a provision that could allow more foreign-born doctors to practice in states with physician shortages. As StateImpact has reported over the last year, Idaho has fewer doctors per capita than every state in the country except [...]

Idaho Budget Writers Approve Funding For More Medical School Seats

Emmett, Idaho resident Rebecca Smither (left) talks with Dr. Jennifer Petrie (right). Petrie is a graduate of the WWAMI program and now practices in Emmett.

The Legislature’s main budget panel has approved funding for five additional medical school seats in the WWAMI program, according to the Spokesman-Review’s Eye on Boise blog. The WWAMI acronym represents the five western states that send medical school students to the University of Washington on state-sponsored reduced tuition. Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho don’t have [...]

Gov. Otter Acknowledges Idaho’s Doctor Shortage, Proposes One Step Toward A Fix

For the last two years, Gov. Otter has pushed for lower business taxes, a state-based health insurance exchange, and hiring tax credits.

As we reported earlier this week, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter showed his support to Idaho’s medical educators and doctors by including money for additional access to med school. Otter’s budget proposal includes funding for five additional seats at the University of Washington Medical School, the WWAMI program. That would expand the opportunity for Idaho med [...]

Gov. Otter Advocates For Expanding Idaho’s Medical Education Opportunities

Stethoscope and Chart Doctor Shortage

Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter says Idaho should expand options for Idahoans who want to attend medical school. During his State of the State speech, Otter pushed for legislation that would expand the number of seats in the WWAMI program. Medical students from Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho are able to attend the University of [...]

Report: Idaho Ranked Best Place To Be A Doctor

Stethescope CU

United Press International reports Idaho is the best place to be a physician. The annual rankings compiled by Physicians Practice say Idaho is the best place to practice because of it’s “low rate of disciplinary actions against doctors.” Here’s more from UPI.com: The Physicians Practice’s Best States to Practice ranking found Idaho, Alabama, Texas, Nevada [...]

As Idaho’s Doctor Workforce Ages, Who Is Stepping Up To Replace Them?

Photos of Dr. Petrie's kids proudly line her cluttered desk.  Their latest drawings hang next to her medical school diploma.

Many states don’t have enough doctors.  As we’ve been reporting, Idaho has fewer physicians per capita than every state in the nation except Mississippi. And the shortage of doctors will likely get worse before it gets better, as physicians from the baby boom generation get ready to retire.  At least one-third of all doctors in each [...]

An Interview With Dr. Ted Epperly On Idaho’s Doctor Shortage

Dr. Ted Epperly is the Program Director of the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho.

Dr. Ted Epperly is CEO of the Boise-based Family Medicine Residency of Idaho, a program that gives medical students their last three years of training before they become doctors.  He was an Army physician for 21 years before returning to work in his native Idaho.  In addition to managing the residency program, Epperly is active in [...]

Comparing Doctor Shortages In Small States

Among states with fewer than 2 million people, Idaho has the least amount of doctors per capita.

Just because a state doesn’t have its own medical school, doesn’t mean it will have a higher proportion of doctors than states with med schools. Take a look at this table showing states with populations of less than 2 million people.  Fewer than half of these 14 states don’t have their own med school (although some, [...]

How Idaho Is Trying To Boost Its Number Of Doctors

Idaho has fewer doctors per capita than every state in the nation except one.

A few years ago, the Idaho Board of Education, which oversees colleges and universities in the state, put together a list of priorities to increase the number of doctors in Idaho. While nearly every state in the country is facing a shortage of doctors to a certain extent, there are fewer doctors per capita in [...]

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