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      Southwest Georgia sees shortage of doctors

      One of the biggest challenges facing Southwest Georgia and other rural areas is a lack of doctors.

      "There's a shortage of doctors, there's a shortage of access," Georgia Regents University Associate Dean Dr. Granville Simmons said. "There's a big need for it if you look at health disparity maps, this part of the state is the worst."

      So Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and Georgia Regents University in Albany are trying to do something about it.

      "We do know that 47 percent of all of our classes that have graduated said that they were willing to look at returning to this part of the state," Dr. Simmons said.

      This is something they hope will continue. The Georgia Board for Physician Workforce has released some numbers.

      When looking at the number of doctors per 100,000 in population:

      Dougherty County has 322 doctors. Colquitt has 134, Tift has 259, Lee has 50, and Worth County has 42. Some people in Worth County are surprised that there's a shortage.

      "I'm very surprised," Camille Graddy said. "We have physicians here. It doesn't seem like there's a shortage."

      The college along with Phoebe are hoping to keep doctors in rural areas of the state. Data show doctors practice very closely to where they completed their residency and that's why this residency program was started here.

      "Now you have the physicians that travel from state to state and if we can keep them local, that would be tremendous," Graddy said.

      Dr. Simmons says it's important to create a pipe line to get in contact with kids in middle and high school in rural areas and get them interested in medicine. He says they're more likely to stick around here.