Training and keeping primary care physicians in Arizona

Dec. 14, 2023

The Primary Care Physician Scholarship program is educating a new generation of doctors, reducing debt and providing a path to practice in Arizona.

Situated in the northwestern corner of Arizona, Mohave County is the fifth-largest county in the United States by area. Despite the vastness of land, Mohave County is home to only 3% of Arizona’s overall population, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. While its population is small, Mohave County is representative of a big problem in health care — a shortage of primary care physicians.

Arizona meets just 39% of its residents’ primary care needs and must add 497 to 667 primary care physicians to eliminate its primary care physician shortage, according to data from the University of Arizona Center for Rural Health at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. While all 15 of the state’s counties face a shortage of primary care doctors, the shortages are worse in rural areas, such as Kingman and Lake Havasu City in Mohave County.

To address this problem, the University of Arizona Health Sciences launched the Primary Care Physician Scholarship program. In exchange for free tuition, recipients in the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson or UArizona College of Medicine – Phoenix agree to practice primary care in a rural or urban underserved community in Arizona.

In 2023, Dawn Bowling, MD, became one of the first recipients of a Primary Care Physician scholarship to begin fulfilling her commitment to practice in Arizona. Bowling completed her residency at the Kingman Regional Medical Center, where she stayed on and now works as a hospitalist. Her presence and service to the Kingman community is the first step in filling the need for more than 30 primary care physicians to overcome the Center for Rural Health’s estimate of the provider shortage in Mohave County.

With 45 past recipients in residency and an additional 92 active medical students at the Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix, the Primary Care Physician Scholarship program is positioned to help reduce Arizona’s alarming need for primary care physicians in the next decade.