Shortage of stroke specialists looms

Every 40 seconds, an American suffers a stroke. That's about 800,000 strokes occurring in the U.S. each year. Strokes are leading cause of disability in the nation and the No. 4 cause of death. However, a major shortage of stroke sub-specialists looms on the horizon, according to a report on a recent article in Stroke.  

Vascular neurologists, who specialize in stroke medicine, are increasingly rare. An average of just 38 new vascular neurologists entered the field each year between 2005 and 2012 in the U.S., according to the report.

Yet as the subspecialty dwindles, the number of strokes is expected to increase with the aging population. There is a "need to develop and vigorously support a broad range of initiatives to encourage residents to enter vascular neurology. These efforts need to be started immediately. Time is short," wrote authors of the Stroke article, Harold P. Adams, Jr., MD, and Jose Biller, MD.

Drs. Adams and Biller suggested the following initiatives to combat the shortage:

  • Broaden the pool of candidates for vascular neurology fellowships by opening them to graduates of international residency programs.
  • Graduate more vascular neurologists by establishing a financial incentive program to help pay off medical school debt.
  • Increase compensation for vascular neurologists.
  • Allow other types of physicians to train in stroke medicine, such as emergency room physicians, internal medicine physicians, rehabilitation physicians or neurosurgeons.

 

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