Clinic creates new position
Nevada has been given the opportunity to welcome a new kind of medical professional this year. Missouri legislators voted to offer a license for Assistant Physicians in 2014 and began offering the licenses in 2017 to graduates of medical schools who have not had their residency training.
Medical training requires a four-year bachelor’s program followed by a four-year graduate degree of either medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy and then a three to seven-year program of residency and fellowship depending upon specialty before an individual can become a fully licensed physician.
Unfortunately, there are now many more medical school graduates each year than there are residency positions for them to continue their training. In 2017 there were more than 8,000 applicants for U.S. residency that did not find a match.
A doctor with a medical degree and no residency has a great deal of difficulty finding appropriate work. Some go into research or work for insurance companies, some hope for the next year’s residency match and many find work in other fields or pursue different training and begin the long process of paying off massive student loans. Missouri legislators recognized that this population of trained employable people existed and that there has been an increasing shortage of physicians in rural areas so the designation of assistant physician was developed.
An assistant physician must have completed the four-year medical school degree within a specified period of time and must find a position providing primary care in an underserved area. The position is meant to be a temporary one, typically lasting about one year, after which the individual would hopefully match into the next year’s residency class. assistant physicians are intended to collaborate with primary care physicians in closely supervised working relationships that provide opportunities to learn and extend the ability of the supervising physician to provide care to more people.
Nevada Medical Clinic physicians created a position for one assistant physician this year and found that there had been little work done in preparing for this new licensure. The liability insurance carriers and medical insurance companies were mostly unaware of this new position and had to develop policies that included its description. Some Missouri medical educators and physicians are not convinced this program is a good solution to the physician shortage and medical school graduate surplus problems and have been unsupportive. Nevada Medical Clinic is unaware of any other clinics in the state that have employed an assistant physician at this time.
Elizabeth Mukherjee, M.D. is a 31-year-old 2017 graduate of Ross University School of Medicine in Dominica, West Indies. She is enthusiastic about providing primary care to rural underserved areas. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor’s of Science in Molecular Biosciences and has a graduate certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders. She graduated from Blue Valley Northwest high school in Overland Park, Kan. She was born in Kolkata, India, and also lived in Pune, India, and Reading, England, before moving to Overland Park at age 10. She attended Montgomery College in Maryland for two years and competed at the college level in volleyball and tennis. She also participated in an elite chambers choir that competed at the state level through all four years of high school.
Dr. Mukherjee’s desire to help the poor and underserved began in her early childhood when her parents woke their children early some mornings to prepare large vats of food for feeding the homeless in India. She recalls enjoying birthday gifts for one day before giving them away to children in the orphanages. She spent two months in Moshi, Tanzania, during her senior college year as a health volunteer and unfortunately contracted malaria. After graduation and recovery from her illness, she joined the Peace Corps and was sent to a small village called Ngeruka, Rwanda. She experienced many difficulties there while she was setting up a health center and getting supplies and personnel to operate it. She lived in primitive conditions and had very little support from outside the village. She was able to obtain equipment for neonatal services and hire a new Health Director who was a native of a nearby village with a nursing degree. She cites her persistence as the most important quality she brought to this endeavor. After a year of almost no electricity and limited food availability, she returned to the United States exhausted and having lost 40 pounds.
A bachelor’s degree in molecular biosciences and a year of work in the Peace Corps did not open many doors to employment for her but she was able to find work as a pharmacy technician, first at a Walmart Pharmacy and then at Accredo Specialty pharmacy. Her experiences in the Peace Corps and the pharmacy confirmed her desire to become a physician. She was accepted into Ross University School of Medicine after a semester of intense graduate work. Her time at Ross was extended by volunteer activities and another tropical illness, this time chikungunya, a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes. This caused a delay in taking Step 2 of her medical board exams and thus affected her ability to apply for residency positions in a timely manner. She has taken the assistant physician position at Nevada Medical Clinic and began working August 16.
Dr. Mukherjee is enthusiastically becoming a member of the Nevada community. She has joined Amanda Turner, M.D. as her primary collaborative physician and is working with her at the clinic as well as at Nevada Regional Medical Center and the long-term care facilities in Nevada. She has begun volunteering with the city animal shelter and is interested in participating in area youth athletics. She hopes to complete a family medicine residency after her time in Nevada and envisions a future working in a setting like Nevada Medical Clinic and volunteering with organizations such as Doctors Without Borders.