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Physician shortage in Massachusetts continues to squeeze primary care

Massachusetts is facing severe or critical shortages of doctors in eight specialties, including a deficiency of primary care physicians for the sixth year, a survey shows. Internal medicine, psychiatry and urology are seeing critical shortages, according to the 2011 Massachusetts Medical Society's "Physician Workforce Study," released in September. Dermatology, family medicine, general surgery, neurosurgery and orthopedics are seeing severe shortages, according to the 10th annual MMS report, which evaluated 18 specialties. Researchers surveyed practicing physicians, residents and fellows across the state. Neurosurgery is the only specialty new to the shortage list this year. However, three specialties on the list in 2010 did not make it this year: emergency medicine, neurology and vascular surgery. MMS President Lynda M. Young, MD, said a long-term goal is to have more physicians enter primary care. Doctors and others are working toward that goal in various ways. For example, ...

Female smokers at greater risk after a heart attack than other patients

Women who smoke and have had an acute coronary syndrome event should be closely monitored, because they are more likely to develop subsequent cardiovascular problems than other patients. A study published online Sept. 19 in The American Journal of Cardiology found that 55% of female smokers experienced at least one cardiovascular problem within six months of having an acute coronary incident compared with half of nonsmoking women. The figure was 42% for nonsmoking males and 33% for male smokers. "Smoking is not good for men or women, but our analysis shows that women who smoke do worse six months after a heart attack than men," said senior study author Elizabeth Jackson, MD, MPH, a cardiologist at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center. She recommends that primary care physicians "be aggressive about secondary prevention in female smokers [by] treating them with evidence-based medication such as aspirin and statins." Dr. Jackson said secondary prevention also shou ...

U.S. still faces public health preparedness gaps 10 years after 9/11

A decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the anthrax scare that same year, the United States still is not adequately prepared to respond to public health threats, experts say. A report issued Sept. 1 by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that significant public health improvements were made following the 2001 events. Such improvements include developing clear emergency response plans, bolstering laboratory staffing and bio-testing capabilities, and implementing more effective disease surveillance systems in state health departments. But during the past 10 years, the report says these efforts have been losing effectiveness, due largely to public health budget cuts. The cuts are leaving many departments across the country with too few staff members to adequately implement the measures. For example, some local and state health departments might no longer be able to properly staff their laboratories should there be an infectious disease o ...