Attracting and retaining medical professionals is an ongoing issue leaving uneven access to health care services in many New York communities. But new research shows service-obligated providers, which are medical professionals receiving an incentive to work in underserved communities, appear to be making a difference.

“The patients need us to come here and do this work,” said Dr. Chelese Moore, of Whitney M. Young’s Dental Clinic, in Albany.

Moore was on a medical mission trip to the Dominican Republic where her journey to become a dentist blossomed.

“I had always been interested in public health and community service,” she said. “Growing up with my church and doing outreach efforts with my church.”

That passion led the Queens native to dental school and then to Albany.

“I have a three-year commitment here at Whitney Young where I am able to serve people who are not only uninsured but people who are underinsured,” she explained.

What You Need To Know

  • Service-obligated providers are medical professionals  who work in underserved communities while receiving an a state or federal incentive

  • There are more than 2,000 service-obligated providers across our state

  • The North Country has the highest density of service-obligated providers in the state

The three-year commitment is part of an obligated service program called Student to Service Loan Repayment Program, which will help Moore pay off a portion of her student loans.

“Every day I see patients who really don’t have any other option for their health care,” she said.

Moore is one of more than 2,000 service-obligated providers in New York state.

“We know per capita there are a lot more in the North Country and the more rural Adirondack areas,” Center for Health Workforce Studies’ Senior Program Director Dr. Robert Martiniano said.

Martinano led a research effort looking into the trends of service-obligated providers in New York. It shows three-fourths of these providers are participating in federally sponsored programs — Moore being one of them. Nearly one-third of them are physicians, almost half of them are providing primary care services and 42% are working in behavioral health.

“I think there are two takeaways. One is that we in New York are using these programs to make sure that we are serving the vulnerable populations that we have,” he said. “But two, that we are ensuring that these federal designations continue.”

Martiniano calls the programs offerings an effective approach to close the gaps but believes sustainability is another issue.

“We need to make sure that as these providers come into these areas, serving these populations, that they remain there,” he said.

For Moore, it was an opportunity that just made sense. She says retainment is dependent on the applicant and their desire to help people.

“If your heart's not in it and you’re not fully interested in meeting the needs of these people, yes you will not be retained in these areas,” Moore said.

Other regions of our state with a large number of service-obligated providers per 100,000 people include Central New York and the Mohawk Valley.