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6 months ago

Bill aims to reduce Alabama doctor shortage with medical school scholarships



When newly minted doctors graduate from medical schools throughout the country each year, most head for lucrative jobs in specialties and large metropolitan regions.

Few want to practice family medicine for relatively low pay in America’s backwaters.

The doctor shortage is a problem across the country, but it’s worse in Alabama than most states. According to a report last year by the Association of American Medical Colleges, Alabama had 193.2 active care physicians for every 100,000 residents. Only eight states had fewer doctors per 100,000 residents.

A bill aimed at addressing the rural doctor shortage in Alabama was scheduled for a vote Thursday in the state Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee, the bill sponsor Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Tuscumbia) held it over until next week.

“What the bill really is about is helping people afford to go to school who can’t otherwise go,” he said in an interview.

The bill would provide money to pay medical school tuition for 25 students, who then would agree to practice family medicine in an underserved part of the state for five years.

Stutts said the legislation not only would help talented lower-income students afford the substantial cost of medical school and provide more doctors to communities that desperately need them, it also would support struggling rural hospitals.

“We pay lip service all the time to, we want to help rural hospitals,” he said.

Stutts pulled a different version of the bill last month amid questions concerning its designation of the Alabama Medical Education Consortium to run the scholarship program. The organization teamed up with the Southeast Alabama Medical Center to found the Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine in Dothan in 2013.

What’s more, Stutts’ son is a medical school student, and some raised questions of conflict of interest.

Stutts said the insinuations are nonsense. He said his son has no need for a scholarship and no interest in the post-graduation commitment it would entail.

As for the governing body, he said, the revised bill places the Board of Medical Scholarship Awards in charge of the program. The organization already administers scholarship programs aimed at increasing the supply of doctors in underserved areas, and its board has appointees of both the state House and Senate, giving the Legislature input into its decisions.

“I’ve tried to address all the concerns that people had about it,” Stutts said.

Rep. Steve McMillan (R-Orange Beach), who is sponsoring the bill in the House, said he believes the committee chairman is on board and that lawmakers will advance it next week.

“We’re hoping to work out a compromise,” he said. “But it’s been real difficult. … We’re proposing a very reasonable compromise.”

McMillan cited one statistic indicating the need — life expectancy is nine years lower in Alabama’s rural areas than its urban regions. He said about 60 percent of doctors stay in the states where they complete their residencies after medical school.

That indicates that doctors contractually obligated to serve rural areas in Alabama likely would put down roots and stay even once they complete their obligation.

“Even if they do move on, we’ve gotten five good years of service from them,” he said.

Jeffrey Flier, the former dean of the faculty of medicine at Harvard University, said in an interview that family physician shortages are a major problem in underserved areas and that state-funded scholarships are one possible solution.

“That’s a good thing,” he said. “There should be more of it. It works.”

Flier this week co-wrote a paper for George Mason University’s Mercatus Center examining a number of ways that America could boost the number of doctors. He called for reducing barriers to licensing new medical schools, for instance.

Another idea is to make it easier for foreign doctors to come to the United States. Flier said currently, Canadian doctors who move to the United States are treated the same as doctors who graduate from U.S. medical schools.

But most states follow guidelines from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates and require doctors from other countries to pay for and take a medical exam in the United States and compete for a limited number of residency programs.

This is true even for doctors in First-World countries who have completed similar training programs in their home countries.

“Why do you have to do your training again if you’ve already done your training?” he said.

Flier said about a quarter of doctors in the United States were born in foreign countries. He said data indicate that they perform as well as native-born doctors and have similar levels of patient satisfaction.

“We want to shake things up a bit,” he said. “When you’re in the medical world … you’re in kind of a bubble.”

Brendan Kirby is senior political reporter at and a Yellowhammer contributor. He also is the author of “Wicked Mobile.” Follow him on Twitter.


9 mins ago

7 Things: Trump pulls former CIA Director’s clearance, former Governor Robert Bentley wants us to believe the unbelievable, Trump supporters slammed for something that didn’t happen and more …

7. In a story that surprises no one, former White House staffer Omarosa lies about being interviewed by Robert Muller’s investigators

— Omarosa already has some credibility issues but there is no evidence she has ever been interviewed in any capacity by the Mueller team. She claims she has and that she has new information for him.

— Sources at the White House say that Omarosa was never requested by investigator and ABC News’ John Santucci tweeted, “We’ve been reporting on the Special Counsel’s interviews from day one – I have never heard her name.”

6. Masterpiece Cakes was targeted again the day they won the right to have their case heard at the Supreme Court


— After losing on a technicality, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission is targeting the business again, this time arguing they wouldn’t make a cake for a transgender attorney.

—  A lawyer called the cakeshop asking for a birthday cake that was pink on the inside and blue on the outside in order to honor the seventh anniversary of her transition. When the cakeshop refused she filed a complaint.

5. The monolithic mainstream media decided to prove their critics right by publishing similar editorials all over the country attacking Trump

— 350+ newspapers have joined in the effort to assert their First Amendment privileges that they clearly have been expressing for the entire Trump administration with absolutely no repercussions, except some mean words from the president.

— The face of these heroic warriors is none other than CNN’s Jim Acosta who stormed out of a White House press briefing in a huff when Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn’t repeat what he wanted her to.

4. is starting to telegraph how Democrats will attempt to use recent coal corruption trial in attacks this election season

— The sports blog with a liberal bias posted a graphic that included every Republican member of Congress in Alabama implying inappropriate behavior when there is absolutely nothing to substantiate that claim.

— The only thing most of these men did was sign a letter to the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), asking for a 60-day public comment period — a request that was granted by an EPA ran by Obama appointees.

3. The media is now using a non-existent Trump tape to beat up Trump supporters. Even the media’s favorite conservatives are jumping in

— The tape, which almost certainly doesn’t exist, has set liberal commentators off into a tizzy of condemnation over an event that hasn’t taken place. The New York Times’ Charles Blow argued the tape “might actually increase his support among the people who support him.”

— S.E. Cupp, who recently received a Saturday talk show on CNN, declared without any evidence that “plenty of Trump supporters voted for him because they saw him as a protector of white America, whether through rhetoric or policy. They won’t mind.”

2. Former Governor Robert Bentley continues to talk about his alleged extra-marital affair with Rebekah Mason

— Bentley is claiming that the obvious adulterous relationship that ended his marriage and cost him his position as governor was not adulterous, claiming it was just “affectionate friendship” with kissing but no sex.

— The absurd lie, or pathetic truth, was part of a deposition in an ongoing civil lawsuit.

1. President Trump revokes former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance and put the clearances of others under review 

— One of the president’s loudest critics, Brennan claims the revoking of his security clearances is a violation of his free speech rights, which he ironically said during interviews with multiple news outlets after the clearance was revoked.

— Brennan is so in fear of losing his right to free speech that he wrote a column for the New York Times making the same silly claims that got his clearance yanked. He claims there is collusion, he gets the headline and then he doesn’t deliver.

14 mins ago

Calera kindergarten teacher accused of possessing child porn

A kindergarten teacher in Alabama has been charged with 40 counts of child porn possession.

News outlets report 26-year-old Daniel Prentice “Danny” Donaldson was arrested Wednesday.

Calera Elementary School officials say the teacher has been placed on administrative leave as the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office continues its investigation.

Sheriff’s Maj. Ken Burchfield says the investigation started with a tip, and that there is no evidence yet that any students were involved in the child porn case.


Donaldson has worked with the county school district since 2015, starting as a paraprofessional under the guidance of another teacher.

District officials say he passed a criminal background check in 2014 and has no prior incidents of misconduct.

This school year would have been his second teaching kindergarten.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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54 mins ago

Birmingham police: Stun gun used on boy, 13, with handgun

Alabama authorities say a police officer used a stun gun on a 13-year-old boy who reached into a pocket containing a handgun.

News outlets report charges are pending against the 13-year-old, who was walking with a 15-year-old boy near a middle school when he was stopped Wednesday.


Birmingham Police Sgt. Johnny Williams says officers responding to a report of an armed person spotted the 13-year-old matching the provided description.
Williams says officers asked the youth to put his hands in the air.

He says an officer then fired the stun gun when the teen reached in his pocket instead.

Police say a .38 caliber handgun was found in the boy’s pocket.

News outlets say the boy was taken to a hospital to be checked out.

An internal investigation into the stun gun’s use is ongoing.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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1 hour ago

Alabama leaders react after Democratic NY governor says America ‘was never that great’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) on Wednesday, writing the latest chapter in a long line of national Democrats shooting themselves in the foot going into November’s midterm elections, claimed that America “was never that great.”

Alabama Republican leaders reacted swiftly to condemn the liberal leader’s remarks and applaud the values that the nation cherishes.

The shocking statement came as a seemingly offhand remark in his rebuke of President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan during a bill-signing in his state.

“We’re not going to make America great again,” Cuomo exclaimed. “It was never that great.”

Ironically, in his 2010 announcement video for governor, Cuomo proclaimed “Together, we can make New York great again.” He is rumored to be strongly considering a 2020 challenge to President Trump now.

Alabama Republican leaders reacted quickly, forcefully denouncing Cuomo’s remarks and standing up for American greatness.


“New York City is full of folks who will never have the same sort of conservative values that are so precious to us across East Alabama,” Rep. Mike Rogers (AL-3) told Yellowhammer News.

He added, “I think I can speak for most Alabamians when I say we think America is a great country and we are proud to live here.”

Rep. Robert Aderholt (AL-4) echoed the sentiments of Rogers and applauded President Trump’s leadership.

“There is not a country on earth that has done more good for more people than America,” Aderholt stated. “This country most definitely has been great, and thanks to President Trump, we are going to be great again.”

Rep. Martha Roby (AL-2) spoke to America’s greatness and the people who have fought for the nation since its inception.

“We live in the greatest country in the world,” she emphasized. “Many brave men and women have served and sacrificed for the very freedoms we enjoy as Americans.”

“For more than 200 years, our country has been a land of optimism and opportunity, and over the last year and a half, we’ve worked to foster this outlook once again. I look forward to seeing this nation continue to prosper and grow,” Roby concluded.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-1) pointed out that Cuomo’s statement is reflective of the state of the Democratic Party.

“Governor Cuomo’s statement shows just how out-of-touch Democrats are with the rest of the country,” Byrne explained. “For example, he should tell those who survived the Depression and fought in World War II, like my dad, that America was never a great country.”

Byrne continued, “Frankly, he should apologize for such an outrageous comment.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

Aubie and Big Al team up for a special cause

Patients at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham got a special surprise on Tuesday when the University of Alabama and Auburn University mascots paid a visit.

The visit by Big Al and Aubie, who were also joined by cheerleaders from the University of Alabama, coincides with the annual kickoff of Wells Fargo’s “Picks for Kids” program.

Going into its seventh consecutive year, “Picks for Kids” has raised over $216,000 for helping ill and injured children at the Alabama hospital.

Find out more about the program here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn