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Pallone Holds Virtual Roundtable on His Legislation to Support and Expand Medical Training in Underserved Communities

June 7, 2021
Press Release

Long Branch, NJ – Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) held a virtual roundtable to discuss his legislation to permanently authorize the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) program to support the training of primary care medical and dental residents with a focus on supporting residents in high-need communities. He was joined by members of the medical community in New Jersey who highlighted how the legislation could benefit underserved communities in the state.

The Doctors of Community (DOC) Act permanently authorizes the THCGME program, provides increased and sustained annual funding at over $500 million per year for fiscal years 2024-2033, and increases the number of residency slots available each year. Currently, the program is funded at $126.5 million per year. If enacted, the bill would support community health continuity by bringing a reliable stream of doctors to communities of color, rural communities, and other high-need communities.  The legislation would fund an additional 100 new THCGME programs in communities across the country and create an estimated 1,600 new resident physician slots, the largest expansion to the program in more than two decades. Pallone introduced the bill in the House last week, and the Senate companion bill will be introduced this week.


“Primary care physicians are the keystone of our nation’s health care system and are all too often the only providers in rural and high-need communities,” said Pallone. “Unfortunately, we are increasingly facing a shortage of these vital frontline providers across the country, which will only continue to grow unless Congress acts. The DOC Act will help address this shortage by providing permanent, reliable funding to train the next generation of primary care providers in some of the most medically underserved communities in New Jersey and across the country.  I look forward to working in Congress to get this critical legislation passed and signed into law.”

“NJPCA is pleased to see Chairman Pallone’s introduction of the DOC Act to expand new residency programs and address the primary care physician shortage.  This legislation will help improve access to quality healthcare for millions of Americans, particularly those living in medically underserved areas,” said Selina Haq, Ph.D., New Jersey Primary Care Association President and CEO. “With this legislation, we look forward to the possibility that New Jersey will gain at least one Teaching Health Center at one of the 24 Federally Qualified Health Centers. The Teaching Health Center Program would further expand access to care in our state’s high need communities.”

“This bill is a wonderful opportunity for Community Health Centers (CHCs) to further their mission to serve the underserved while also addressing the critical primary care shortage that has become even more obvious with the pandemic,” said Christopher Rinn, CEO, VNACJ Community Health Centers. “The CHCs are a perfect setting to train future primary care physicians.”

“Over the past 10 years we have all seen the extraordinary success of the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Program in training and placing new primary care physicians in underserved and rural communities nationally. Teaching Health Centers have also been instrumental on the front lines of the pandemic and have demonstrated that addressing the shortage of primary care physicians is both necessary and attainable. The ‘DOC Act’ will continue to build on these successes by providing sustainable permanent funding and growth, enabling more states, such as New Jersey, to have their own Teaching Health Centers and develop and train the next generation of providers in the evolving healthcare system,” said Cristine Serrano, Executive Director, American Association of Teaching Health Centers. “Teaching Health Centers around the country sincerely appreciate and applaud Congressman Pallone’s leadership, along with Senator Patty Murray’s efforts on our part, to preserve and expand the program.”

The THCGME program supports the training of primary care physicians through annual funding authorized and appropriated by Congress. The program serves vulnerable populations by funding the training of residents in community-based settings, such as Federally Qualified Health Centers, Rural Health Clinics, and tribal health centers. The majority of THCGME training sites are located in medically underserved areas and the majority of patients served are covered by Medicaid. Current funding for the THCGME program is set to expire in fiscal year 2023.

The DOC Act is supported by the American Association of Teaching Health Centers, National Association of Community Health Centers, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, Council of Academic Family Medicine, and the American Osteopathic Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society of General Internal Medicine.

Bill text is available here.

One-pager is available here.