Medical camp aims to recruit young minds

February 1, 2010 9:11:02 AM PST
Our country is facing a doctor deficit. As the population ages, we'll need more doctors and surgeons. The demand for total hip and knee replacements alone is expected to double in the next 10 years, and experts predict the number of surgeons won't keep up. One program could prevent the doctor-patient gaps before they happen. This is no ordinary day at camp. These students are on the front lines of medicine. They trade in their free time for rubber gloves and a hands-on experience in the medical field, from surgery to physical therapy.

It's a behind-the-scenes look at a profession likely to face dangerous deficits in the near future. One study shows, by 2050, the United States will be short 6,000 general surgeons, who perform life-saving surgeries in the emergency room.

Experts predict a shortage of 40,000 family physicians by 2020, and the number of heart and orthopedic surgeons is also expected to fall behind demand.

The biggest reason for the need: Baby Boomers start turning 65 in 2011, requiring more medical care. Experts say, to fill the gap, it helps to get students hooked early.

"At this age, you know, 14, 15, you start to make some of the key life decisions, and these are the stars of the future, so it's very important that we take our time working with them," said Vipul Patel, MD, urologist/medical director, Global Robotics Institute at Florida Hospital Orlando, FL.

"Seeing it up close makes it a little more realistic for me," said Ryan Mouser.

The number of US medical school students going into primary care has dropped about 52 percent since 1997. A primary care doctor typically makes at most $190,000 a year, while neurosurgeons make $530,000 or more.