The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, the Oklahoma State Medical Association, and the Physician Manpower Training Commission welcomed Dr. Stormy Walkup to Idabel as part of the Oklahoma Medical Loan Repayment Program.

Dr. Walkup, a family medicine physician will practice medicine in Idabel under the guidelines of the Oklahoma Medical Loan Repayment Program.

“I grew up in Valliant and I love the people here in McCurtain County,” Walkup said. “Rural communities need access to doctors and this program enables me to serve communities I care about and give great care to the hardworking people here in southeastern Oklahoma.”

The Oklahoma Medical Loan Repayment program launched in 2012 through a partnership with the Physician Manpower Training Commission and TSET. The partnership requires physicians to establish a practice in a rural or medically underserved area of the state.

Doctors participating in the program see patients, including patients insured by SoonerCare, and refer tobacco users to the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline for free cessation coaching and services. The physicians are eligible for a medical school loan repayment program that can pay up to $160,000 if a physician participates in the program for four years in a rural or underserved community.

Participating physicians like Dr. Walkup often choose to continue to practice medicine in a rural or underserved community beyond the four years to keep essential medical care in areas of the state that have been deemed medically underserved by the federal government.

“This program creates a partnership in rural and underserved areas that helps to increase access to health care and address Oklahoma’s shortage of doctors,” said TSET Executive Director Julie Bisbee. “Increasing access to primary care and preventative services will help Oklahomans make healthy choices and live longer, healthier lives.”

To date, more than 260,000 patient visits have been conducted by physicians participating in the program. In addition, participating physicians have referred more than 9,200 patients to the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline.

“We are proud to partner with TSET and the PMTC in addressing the need for highly-trained doctors to practice in critical access areas. Rural physicians not only provide crucial services and keep their patients healthy, they also help breathe life into their communities. On behalf of physicians throughout the state, we are thrilled to welcome Dr. Walkup and look forward to helping him grow his career in Idabel,” said OSMA Executive Director Wes Glinsmann.

And according to a recent analysis by PMTC, each primary care physician in rural Oklahoma will generate an estimated 23 full-time jobs that contribute about $1.5 million each year to the local economy.

“Oklahoma’s already historic rural primary care shortage is likely to get worse with one-third of the State’s physicians over the age of 60, and less than 17% under 40 years old,” said PMTC Executive Director Richard Evans. “However, PMTC feels that with our new private/public partnership loan repayment funding, we can compete for physicians on a national level.”

Thomas Larson is the TSET Director of Public Information and Outreach.

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