Examine the distribution of general surgeons and need for them throughout Kentucky and their characteristics in terms of practice location and practice type, e.g., community-based private practice, hospital based, and contracted.


A review of policy and other research literature was conducted to determine trends in the availability of general surgeons for community hospitals and high need rural areas. Data for 2011 from the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure was the main source for this study. Data showing the distribution of general surgeons were coded for location by county using the 2003 Rural-Urban Continuum Codes.


As a state Kentucky has an shortage of general surgeons in some rural counties when compared to national norms and a mal-distribution in which rural and smaller communities are the most underserved. International Medical Graduates (IMGs) fill the need gap much less in Kentucky compared to states such as New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas and Tennessee which have much greater proportions of IMGs as part of their physician workforce.


The shortage of general surgeons has serious implications for the economic viability of many Kentucky community hospitals, as they have been crucial to revenue streams for these hospitals. While the trends toward contracted and hospital-based services offer some temporary relief, longer-term policies should be examined, including higher reimbursement rates and incentives for IMGs who are general surgeons to locate in underserved areas of Kentucky.

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A poster presentation at the Kentucky Rural Health Association’s 14th Annual Conference in Bowling Green, KY.