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Bill to Expand Med School Scholarships May Help Southside Doctor Shortage

Danville, VA - There's a shortage of primary care physicians in the more rural parts of our area. One lawmaker on the Southside is looking to improve that situation with a bill to expand medical school scholarships that passed unanimously in the Senate today.

There is already a program that helps pay for medical school at certain Virginia colleges if students agree to work in rural and under-served areas of the state, including Danville.

With this bill Senator Bill Stanley hopes to expand the program to cover students from out of state schools who want to come practice here.

In a statement, Stanley said the bill is "...an important piece of legislation that will help us in our region attract and retain the best and brightest primary care physicians and specialists, so that our citizens will have access to quality healthcare regardless of their income or zip code."

Dr. Gary Miller is a local cardiologist who supports this bill. Miller says he's seen many patients who don't have a primary doctor with illnesses that could have been prevented.

"They don't have a family physician to go to, or a primary internist, they end up going to the emergency rooms. And that's not very efficient care. That's very episodic care," said Miller.

The bill now moves to the House. Miller says even if it becomes law, most medical school programs last at least seven years, so it could be quite a while before we see the effects.

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