GW Researchers Awarded $1.9 Million to Evaluate Federal Medical Teaching Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 8, 2019) - Researchers at the Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University received a $1.9 million contract to evaluate the costs of training primary care residents at teaching health centers, or THCs. The three-year contract is from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program funds community-based organizations to train medical residents in primary care medicine, with the ultimate goal of improving access to well-trained primary care physicians in underserved communities. More primary care physicians are needed overall, with fewer new doctors choosing to train in primary care. The Association of American Medical Colleges is predicting a shortage of between 21,100 and 55,200 primary care physicians by 2032.  

The researchers will develop an estimate of how much it costs to train a resident in a THC, to accurately determine the expenses associated with THC costs. They will develop this estimate by analyzing the expenses, revenues and other related costs from the 56 THCs nationwide that receive funding through the THCGME program. A previous study of the cost per THC resident estimated the amount at $157,602 per resident. By developing an accurate estimate, the researchers can provide HRSA a methodology to inform efforts to properly fund the THCGME program.

“The THCGME program is a major initiative to increase the number of primary care physicians practicing in rural and underserved communities, which need continued access to quality health care,” said Marsha Regenstein, PhD, professor of health policy and management at Milken Institute SPH and lead investigator of the project. “It is critically important that THCs receive funding that accurately and fairly represents the true costs of training a resident in such a setting.”

In related research, a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine by Candice Chen, MD, MPH, an associate professor of health policy and management at Milken Institute SPH, found if Medicare capped funds for graduate medical education at the rate used for the THCGME program ($150,000 per resident), the move would free up more than $1 billion a year.