Valley Doctor Shortage

June 13, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
More than 60 new doctors are ready to help and heal after completing their residencies at UCSF's Fresno Medical Education Program. But only about a third of them are choosing to stay in the valley.After years of training, Doctor Shahrod Behnam is one of 63 doctors graduating from UCSF's Fresno Medical Education Program. He's also part of the two thirds of doctors who will leave the valley after finishing their residencies. This, as the valley faces a shortage of doctors. The critical need is for specialists. "We have only half the doctors for population that the rest of the state has. So that creates severe access issues. We have many people leaving the valley to get that kind of subspecialty care," said Dr. Joan Voris, UCSF Fresno's associate Dean.

Fortunately, about 30 percent of doctors who graduated from the program Thursday night will stay. Doctors Hagop Afarian and Danielle Campagne graduated from valley high schools and will now be staying on with UCSF, training new residents in emergency medicine. "Growing up in Fresno, I've got real connections and ties to Fresno, and I think Fresno needs more and more doctors to stay," said Afarian.

Danielle Campagne attended Sanger High School. "This valley raised me. And so if I can give back to the valley and be here to serve the people here, it's very rewarding," said Campagne.

Not all of the doctors staying in the valley are from valley. Dr. Amber Mahal is joining her husband's private practice. "My husband's from Fresno. He was brought up here - he went to Clovis high school, we have a lot of family. We have roots here, so we want to stay," said Mahal.

Those "roots" are exactly what the program's leaders like to see, as the school does its part to ease the valley's physician shortage. "If you train doctors in the area? if you can imagine, they're here for 3 to 5 years, they've put down roots, and their kids are in school. And so they're more likely to stay in the area," said Dr. Voris.

Whether they leave or stay, the residents do their part to serve the valley's patients while they're here. Dr. Sharod Behnam recieved the program's community service award Thursday night, for the countless hours he volunteered to help needy patients.


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