The Physician Manpower Training Commission (PMTC) recently celebrated its 40 Year Anniversary. The commission is a state agency and was established on Nov. 1, 1975 to assist with the shortage of primary care physician training program positions and given the mission of placing physicians in rural Oklahoma communities.
Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb joined with commission members, staff and guests at the Capitol recently to celebrate the event. The commission used the occasion to conduct an educational retreat in conjunction with the celebration. Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate. Five members must be practicing physicians and two members are non-physicians.
Joe Leverett, M.D., from Altus, is the current chairman. Other physicians on the commission include Jack Beller, M.D., Norman, Zane DeLaughter, D.O., McAlester, Jason Hill, D.O., Talihina and Bruce Storms, M.D., Chickasha. The two non-physicians are Ted Haynes, President, Blue Cross/Blue Shield Oklahoma, Tulsa, and Pamela Spanbauer, RN, BSN, M.Ed. recently retired executive at Mercy Health System, Oklahoma City.
The majority of the agency’s funding goes to support Family Medicine Residency Training programs at OU-OKC, OU-Tulsa and OSU. Family medicine residents are not eligible for federal funding in the same way other specialties are during residency training. That is why it is essential that the commission is available to support their training. James Bishop, executive director of the agency, states, “Oklahoma does not import a lot of physicians. We must do the best that we can to train and retain our own.”
There have been almost 1,000 physician program(s) participants since inception. “We are extremely proud that 91% of PMTC program participants remain in Oklahoma and that 82% continue to serve rural Oklahoma communities,” Bishop stated.
A nursing scholarship program was added in 1982 and the commission has assisted over 6,500 nursing students. The commission also administers a Physician Assistant Scholarship Program. Recently the commission has been able to activate the Oklahoma Medical Loan Repayment Program (OMLRP). The program was created by the Oklahoma Legislature in 2011 but appropriated funding has not been available. The agency was able to activate the program after receiving a grant from the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET).
“The loan repayment program has provided a big boon to this agency’s ability to place physicians in rural communities. This is especially true since our traditional programs have been reduced because of budget cuts,” Bishop stated. Thirty physicians have been placed in rural Oklahoma communities on the OMLRP. TSET funding has enabled the commission to reach its average of 25 physicians a year, particularly over the last few years.