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There’s a shortage of OB-GYNs - and the Central and South Coasts are no exception

Dignity Health
Graduates from the inaugural OB-GYN Residency Program at Marian Regional Medical Center

A new residency program aims to tackle the problem in the Santa Maria Valley.

Each month, more than 257 babies are delivered at the Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria – that’s the highest number throughout the Central Coast.

But – like many places – the center is experiencing a lack of Obstetrics and Gynecology physicians – says Dr. Anne Kennard, at the Marian.

"On a national level we are currently about 8,000 OB-GYNs short for the American population and that number is projected to rise to 22,000 by 2050.

"Locally, we are short of OB-GYNs and we don't have enough people to serve the local community," she told KCLU.

Dr. Kennard says that the lack of physicians impacts both patients and doctors.

"We don't see women as quickly for preventative care," she explained. "Things like well-woman exams get put off because there's not enough doctors to make those appointments.

"So things which can't be put off, like pregnancy, get prioritized," she said.

It’s hoped a OB-GYN residency program at the hospital will help to alleviate the local physician shortage in the Santa Maria valley.

However, training new OB-GYNs takes time – so although the Marian established its OB-GYN residency program in 2018 – the inaugural class are only now about to graduate.

Rebecca Ruebsamen is one of the physicians who will graduate in June this year, and after graduating, Dr Ruebsamen will take up a role at the hospital.

"I really wanted to look for programs that served specific populations, I wanted to be in an underserved area, so that's something I was drawn to Marian for.," explained Ruebsamen.

"That's exactly the reason we started the program," said Kennard.

"When we consider the population that utilizes our services, approximately 70% are state-funded insurance, and many are Spanish or Mixteco speaking farm-workers.

"The presence of our program in producing graduates that stay in the community, like Rebecca, increases both access and equity for women of color and women of lower socio-economic status."

It’s hoped the residency program will not only provide new doctors but ease the pressure on those already in their jobs, and retain them in their positions.

All of which would provide a benefit to women’s health on the Central Coast.