Just two months before it was set to lose federal funding, Congressman David Valadao co-introduced legislation Tuesday to continue operating a critical program that trains physicians in rural areas.

The Training the Next Generation of Primary Care Doctors Act of 2017 would reauthorize the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program for three years, according to a news release issued by Valadao’s office.

It would also allow for the expansion of new programs within existing centers and the creation of new teaching health centers while emphasizing the importance of establishing sustainable funding.

“As fewer medical school graduates pursue careers in rural America, Teaching Health Centers provide critical health care services many families rely on,” Valadao said. “By reauthorizing the THC Graduate Medical Education Program, and prioritizing rural and medically underserved areas, our bill will ensure our most disadvantaged communities, like California’s Central Valley, have access to the primary care services they deserve.”

Teaching Health Centers were established under the Affordable Care Act as a way of increasing the number of primary care physicians to serve those in medically underserved areas. Kern County is among them.

California has six Teaching Health Centers, one of which is operated by Clinica Sierra Vista in Bakersfield. All six have attracted “substantially more applicants” than they can admit, according to a 2016 report by the California Health Care Foundation.

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

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