WA medical students plan to fill needed primary care positions

UW Medicine says it is hiring 12 more providers amid high demand. Some in-state training students decide to stay and fill vacancies.

SEATTLE — If you’re having trouble finding a family doctor who’s accepting new patients, you’re not alone. The demand for primary care doctors is higher than ever, according to medical professionals.

The UW Medicine healthcare provider network is working to grow its primary care team, according to Dr. Victoria Fang, who is medical director of primary care and population health at UW Medicine.

The group currently has 165 providers, and 12 more will join UW Medicine in the coming months. A third of the group’s primary care providers are advanced registered nurse practitioners and physician assistants, according to Fang.

The high demand is a result of a combination of pandemic-related strains, medical professionals leaving the industry, and population growth in King County.

Some current medical students decide to meet this demand and stay in the very region where they were trained.

>> Download KING 5’s Roku and Amazon Fire apps to watch live news and on-demand videos

“You know, family medicine, primary care, was on the front line for people,” said Anna May, a fourth-year student at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

May, who is Navajo and Laguna Pueblo, said she was inspired to become a doctor as a child.

“Growing up I had a doctor who was a woman of color and so for me it was never about whether that could be the type of life that I live,” May said.

May grew up in Maple Valley, attended Gonzaga University for her undergraduate studies, and enrolled at the University of Washington for medical school.

“It makes me happy to be able to stay and continue to learn from these amazing mentors as well as mentor the next one,” May said.

She plans to start a career in primary care after graduating from her program which was again ranked among the best in the 2023 US News & World Report.

May will remain in the Seattle area and do her family medicine residency at Sweden’s Cherry Hill Hospital. Students graduating from the UW School of Medicine do not necessarily enter a career in UW medical clinics.

“A lot of it was because I wanted to stay close to my family, close to home,” May said.

Dr. Tomoko Sairenji, associate professor in the department of family medicine at UW Medicine, is one of May’s mentors and said recruiting the next generation of primary care physicians is more important than ever.

UW medical school students serve a five-state network for its WWAMI program, which includes Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho.

“Between 60 and 75 percent of our students stay in residency programs in the five-state area, which is a pretty high retention rate,” Sairenji said.

Sairenji said there was also a need for underserved areas.

“There are more rural communities that really need more medical professionals, so I would say we’re pretty lucky here in Seattle, in the area, that people want to be here,” Sairenji said.

RELATED: Gender-Affirming Care Reduced Depression in 60% of Teens in University of Washington Study

RELATED: Are masks effective if you’re the only one wearing one? A UW doctor weighs in

Leave a Comment