The Current Distribution of the General Surgery Workforce in Rural America


The United States is in a long-standing and worsening shortage of general surgeons. While the number of physicians (including the number of general surgeons) has increased over the past fifteen years, the supply of general surgeons per 100,000 population has decreased. The effect of this shortage is felt strongly in rural areas of the nation, where the shortages are likely to be far more pronounced than those in urban areas, and where residents are less likely to have local alternatives when in need of surgical services. General surgeons contribute substantially to the financial viability of rural hospitals and provide essential backup to rural primary care physicians especially in the areas of emergency surgery and obstetrical, gynecological, and orthopedic procedures. Rural populations clearly bear a disproportionate share of the burden of poor local access to surgical services and the concomitant higher risk of poor outcome or death. This project describes the supply and geographic distribution of general surgeons across rural/urban, intra-rural area types and regions using the American Medical Association (AMA) Physician Masterfile data and Claritas population data to calculate general surgeon/population ratios.


Eric H. Larson, PhD









Authors Title Type Date Documents/Media
Larson EH, Andrilla CHA, Kearney J, Garberson LA, Patterson DG The distribution of the general surgery workforce in rural and urban America in 2019 PUBLICATION 03-01-2021
Policy Brief