In my opinion: Experts look at trends in Florida medicine

In your opinion, what medical specialty is increasing in demand in the Florida healthcare industry?

A: Primary care.  Family practice physicians/primary care physicians may not traditionally have been considered a specialty, but as access to healthcare continues to expand, our state is facing a very real shortage of both primary/family care physicians and nurses.

The FMA is working towards a five-point policy solution. First, Florida’s medical schools will need additional and targeted funding for family practice residencies.  Second, we must restart student loan forgiveness programs to encourage new graduates to practice in the areas of primary care and family medicine. Third, we should encourage a collaborative relationship between physicians and nurses/physician assistants (PAs) to safely expand access to care. Fourth, we must fairly reimburse family physicians for serving Medicaid patients, to encourage more family doctors to accept them. Fifth, we are working with lawmakers to implement safe telemedicine protocols to dramatically expand access to areas with doctor shortages.

Timothy J. Stapleton 

Executive Vice President

Florida Medical Association, Tallahassee


A: Currently, the United States faces a critical shortage of physicians. This shortage is compounded by an inadequate number of medical schools with training programs to accommodate recent medical school graduates. Many medical school graduates will not obtain a residency spot simply because there are not enough spots to handle all of the graduates. As such, certain fields where you would not expect a shortage will experience an undersized work force. Even specialties like Neurosurgery.

Compounding the workforce challenges will be a double tsunami of demographics – aging baby boomers and the emerging diabetic epidemic. With 80 million baby boomers retiring during the next 18 years, and 50 million additional citizens developing diabetes, the need for physicians to care for the elderly and complicated diabetics will add to an already overburdened system. Every specialty from primary care to orthopedics, from retina to endocrinology, will face greatly increased workloads. Patients may face increased wait times to see a medical doctor.

Richard Hamilton, MD


Polk County Medical Association, Lakeland


One of the intentions of the Affordable Care Act is to increase the primary care workforce. This is even more important as we head into 2014, when more Americans will have health insurance.

Polk County, however, suffers from a shortage of primary care physicians, with only one physician for every 2,086 residents— compared to the state ratio of one physician to every 1,493 residents.

I cannot stress enough the importance of routine medical visits and health screenings. Regular check-ups can prevent a small health concern from becoming a larger issue, or, better yet, may prevent it from happening at all.

Ulyee Choe, MD


Polk County Health Department, Bartow


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