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Delaware launches campaign to attract physicians

Katie Tabeling
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Delaware health officials have launched a marketing campaign to attract doctors and other medical providers to the state, highlighting its beaches, parks and financial repayment options for graduating medical students. | PHOTO COURTESY UNSPLASHED/ONLINE MARKETING

Delaware health officials have launched a marketing campaign to attract doctors and other medical providers to the state, highlighting its beaches, parks and financial repayment options for graduating medical students. | PHOTO COURTESY UNSPLASHED/ONLINE MARKETING

WILMINGTON — Delaware officials are renewing efforts to recruit and retain physicians and medical providers in the First State with a new advertisement campaign targeted in the Wilmington-Philadelphia region.

The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) has contracted with Middletown-based Epic Marketing Consultants Corporation to develop a six-minute video that features the benefits of a career in Delaware. DPH spent $51,582 on the campaign, which includes the cost of the video, social media and printing and marketing materials.

The statewide campaign is primarily focused on social media, and DPH is considering rolling out the video in clips in the next six to 12 months to maximize exposure.

“Delaware’s population continues to grow and that means the state has an increasing demand for health care services,” DPH Community Relations Officer Sharon Smith told the Delaware Business Times. “We wanted to develop a campaign to attract more healthcare providers to our state to meet our residents’ health care needs.”

The video campaign features health care professionals like Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, who is a professor of nursing at University of Delaware; Dr. Megan Werner of Westside Family Healthcare; and former DPH director Dr. Karyl Rattay that speaks about the options available for training and repayment. Other shots include Delaware’s beaches, Wilmington’s Riverfront and state parks.

In 2018, there were 815 active primary care physicians in Delaware, according to a 2018 study commissioned by DHSS. 

Further findings show that Kent County physicians were 60% more likely to be active in the field five years from now, compared with 78% in Sussex County and 70% in New Castle County. 

In addition, Delaware is one of four states in the nation that does not have its own medical school, which further limits the talent pipeline. However, a program with the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University does reserve 20 spots for Delawareans.

Delaware has many federally designated Health Professional Shortage Areas which include 10 designated for primary care, 10 for dental care and 11 for mental health services. Many of these locations overlap. The outlook is the same when it comes to medically underserved areas; eight areas are on the list with the highest need identified in New Castle for primary care.

Delaware officials and health care professionals have been working for years to address the health care provider shortage. The state offers the Delaware State Loan Repayment Program, which covers debts up to $50,000 a year. 

Last year, state health officials finalized a similar program: the Health Care Provider Loan Repayment Program which offers the same amount for professionals who work in Delaware for at least two years.

The J-1 visa program also offers foreign doctors a chance to practice medicine in federally-designated shortage and underserved areas. Up to 30 J-1 visas are awarded per year through a sponsorship with a provider. Rough data indicates that around 60% of physicians that arrived on the visa between 2016 and 2018 stayed in the state.

Many health care systems in the state have launched residency programs in a bid to attract doctors. Beebe Healthcare will be celebrating its first residents on March 17 with “match day,” while Bayhealth launched its emergency medicine program to complement family and internal programs. TidalHealth, with a hospital in Seaford, is also offering a general surgeon program this year, building off its internal medicine program.

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