Critical Shortage of Psychiatrists in Iowa Addressed

Mar 7, 2016

A shortage of mental health physicians could be alleviated under a program Governor Branstad announced today.

Iowa ranks 41st in the nation in the number of practicing psychiatrists.   So the state will spend $4 million for new psychiatric residency programs at three Des Moines medical centers, Broadlawns, UnityPoint Health, and Mercy Hospital.  

Branstad says Iowa educates a lot of doctors at U of I and at Des Moines University.

“But if they go and do their residency out of state, they tend to get job offers there and they don’t come back," Branstad said.     

Branstad says the state has supported other residencies to keep doctors here, but he says psychiatric residencies are among the most expensive.  

“Psychiatry has been one of those areas of critical shortage, and this we think will help address it,” Branstad said.

The money is in the governor’s proposed budget subject to legislative approval.    It would provide matching grants for the new residencies.    

Officials say there is a clear pattern among doctors who graduate from the University of Iowa and Des Moines University.

"We have a 35 year history now with data that shows that if you go to either one of our medical schools and you do your residency in Iowa, there's a 75-80 percent likelihood that you will spend your entire professional career in Iowa," said Dr. Larry Severidt of Broadlawns Hospital.

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics currently has the only program in the state to train future psychiatrists.

"This grant will allow us to meet the challenges of patients with mental health needs," said Dr. Sasha Khosravi, a pediatric psychiatrist at Mercy Medical Center.