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Medical networking company predicts OB-GYN shortage in Salt Lake

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SALT LAKE CITY – If one research group is correct, the future isn’t looking too bright for women’s health care in Utah.  They’ve released their list of the top ten cities that could see a shortage of OB-GYNs in the future, and Salt Lake City is number two.

Researchers say being an OB-GYN is a particularly grueling job.  So much so, they retire at an earlier age.  Doctor Christopher Whaley, University of Berkeley Adjunct Professor, says the average retirement in this field is 59, which is much sooner than other specialties.

“In Salt Lake, a little over 40 percent of OB-GYNs are older than age 55,” Whaley says.

The medical network group, Doximity, tracked the number of doctors nearing retirement age and combined that with the total number of doctors in this field and the typical workload these doctors face.  They place Salt Lake as number two on their list, following only Las Vegas.

When will this shortage happen, if it happens at all?

“We can’t say that, for sure,” Whaley says, “But, the fact that a little under half of Salt Lake OB-GYNs are over the age of 55 is potentially concerning.”

There are other factors that may contribute to the number of OB-GYNs leaving the field.  Doximity VP of Strategy and Insight Amit Phull says these doctors are frequently hurt by litigation.

He says, “I think it’s a combination of those two, in addition to other variable associated with that particular niche, contribute to earlier retirement, relative to other specialties.”

Plus, Salt Lake has one of the highest workloads in the country, and researchers say only 18 percent of its OB-GYN workforce is under the age of 40.

What can be done to change this?  Phull says universities could do a better job of recruiting young people into this field of study.  Or, states could do more to improve health coverage, enticing more doctors to enter this specialty.

However, Phull says, “There’s no clean answer, unfortunately.”