COMMISSION RESPONDS TO SHORTAGE OF PEDIATRIC SUB-SPECIALISTS: LAUNCHES PEDIATRIC PHYSICIAN LOAN REPAYMENT PROGRAM

Children and Families Commission Seeks to Ease Shortage of Pediatric Sub-Specialists

IRVINE, CA – The Children and Families Commission of Orange County today announced it has selected the first three physicians to participate in its new loan repayment program – an innovative and aggressive effort to ease Orange County’s severe shortage of pediatric sub-specialists.

The program seeks to increase the number of sub-specialists available to serve the county’s underserved population of children from birth to 5 years old in areas of specialized care including neurology, and endocrinology.

Through the program, selected physicians will be allocated up to $125,000 over three years to help repay outstanding medical education loans. In return, the physicians agree to serve children under age 5 and to affiliate with a hospital, clinic or physician practice with a patient base of at least 51 percent Medi-Cal and/or Healthy Families beneficiaries for the three-year period. It’s the first program of its kind in California to focus exclusively on pediatric sub-specialists.

The first three physicians selected for the program are:

Lisa A. Snider, M.D., F.A.A.P., a developmental behavioral pediatrician

Christina Marie Southern Reh, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist

Anup J. Patel, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist, hepatologist and nutrition expert

“We’re extremely honored to have these three outstanding doctors as the first recipients of our loan repayment program,” said Bill Campbell, chairman of the Children and Families Commission of Orange County. “All of Orange County’s children deserve the best medical care, but unfortunately, the current shortage of pediatric sub-specialists means that thousands of children must wait for very long periods of time before receiving needed treatment, or worse, not receive it at all.

“The loan repayment program has the potential to have a powerful impact on pediatric specialty care in our county, and we’re grateful that Drs. Reh, Patel and Snider are partnering with the Commission in this critical effort.”

For Dr. Reh, participating in the program feels like something of a homecoming. “I’ve decided to practice in Orange County because after working there for three years during my pediatric residency, I wanted return to the environment where I know I can help a large number of patients from all different backgrounds,” she explained. “The position in Orange County offers me a practice where I am part of a large team of medical professionals who have a common goal of helping children live longer, healthier lives. I’m delighted to return to serve in the area where I began my career in pediatrics.”

Dr. Snider’s passion and commitment to ensuring the appropriate diagnosis and treatment for all children with developmental and neuropsychiatric disabilities is what motivates her day in and day out. “There is an increased risk of developmental disability in children from underserved populations. In the sub-specialty of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, it is often very difficult to find providers that have the ability to provide care to children identified with developmental concerns,” says Dr. Snider. “We know that the earlier a child receives appropriate interventional services to address developmental delay, the better the eventual functional outcome. Children who are able to utilize early intervention services show improved developmental skills prior to kindergarten entry that are carried forward throughout their lives. With respect to developmental and behavioral pediatric medicine, it is critical that children are evaluated as soon as delays are noted.”

According to Erin Aaberg Givans, Executive Director of the Children’s Specialty Care Coalition, “We appreciate the Children and Families Commission’s efforts to ensure that sick children have access to the best care for their illnesses. California currently has a shortage of pediatric subspecialists and this program will help recruit needed pediatric subspecialists in OrangeCounty. We think this is an excellent use of Proposition 10 funds.” The Children’s Specialty Care Coalition is an organization representing nearly 2000 pediatric subspecialists in California.

Some of the specialty areas targeted by the new program are those that are experiencing the most severe shortages. Specialists practicing in neurology, endocrinology, developmental services and cranial-facial are scarce, and patients often wait months to see them. The Commission is conducting extensive outreach efforts inside and outside of California to identify and recruit qualified physicians in these areas.

The Commission has a long history of investing in programs that deliver direct services to OrangeCounty’s youngest children, and access to health care has improved in OrangeCounty due to the Commission’s support for primary care services. This access to primary care creates a demand for specialty care, as children are diagnosed through their primary care physician and sometimes referred to physicians specially trained to treat complex conditions and diseases. Waiting for months to see the specialist may complicate already difficult medical conditions.

The loan repayment program is funded through 2012. The Health Professions Education Foundation, which currently administers a number of health professions loan repayment programs in California, is administering and monitoring the OrangeCounty program.

About the Children and Families Commission of OrangeCounty

The Children and Families Commission of Orange County oversees the allocation of funds from Proposition 10, which added a 50-cent tax on tobacco products sold in California. Funds help pay for education, health care and child development programs for children from the prenatal stage to age five and their families. The Commission’s goal is to ensure all children are healthy and ready to learn when they enter school. For more information, please visit www.occhildrenandfamilies.com.