New grads offer hope during local doctor, psychiatrist shortage

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - "Help is on the way" is the underlying theme of a graduation ceremony for the first class of students to complete their education at Medical College of Wisconsin-Green Bay campus.

Fifteen students received diplomas Friday afternoon at Lambeau Field.

It's viewed as a step to address a doctor shortage in Wisconsin and keep doctors in the Badger State.

"We know that when you build a campus in a region, students will come back and practice," said Dr. Matthew Hunsaker, Dean, Medical College of Wisconsin-Green Bay. "The historical data in Wisconsin shows about 80 percent of the students who do both medical school and practice in the area return to the area."

It's something that appeals to new grads, Dr. Matthew Jenson and Dr. Julie Rose Shariff.

"My family is here as well, so being able to stay close to home and receive my medical training is a top priority," Jenson says.

Shariff says, "I'm actually from Green Bay. Went to UW-Green Bay, got to stay here for medical school, so definitely a huge connection here and most of my family is in the state."

Over the last year, Target 2 Investigates has reported on a provider shortage--especially in rural areas.

It's a concern in all medical fields, especially psychiatry.

"We lead the nation in need in many areas. The further we get out from bigger cities, the more difficult it is to find someone to help you with mental healthcare," says Dr. Robert Gouthro, Program Director, NE WI Psychiatry Residency Program.

Every state is experiencing a shortage, but Wisconsin is among the worst. It's in the top six in the country most in need of psychiatrists.

Bellin Psychiatric Hospital is happy to be in a partnership with the Medical College, Veterans Affairs, and other providers to keep two of the psychiatry students for continued training.

"Really looking at how we continue to reach out to those rural communities where there's just not as much resource, and the more and more we're able to train folks locally, we're able to start looking at strategies to serve those areas," says Sharla Baenen, Bellin Psychiatric Center president.

The VA says it is happy to be part of this, seeing it as a good way to immerse doctors in veteran health care and hopefully convince them to stay with the VA.

"It's been a long time in the making and to finally see it here, can't even put it into words," Gouthro says.

Bellin says some of the young new doctors are eager to start programs in the area and focus on helping low income people.