Cole sponsors bipartisan, bicameral bill to authorize Medical Student Education Program

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) on May 2 sponsored a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would authorize the Medical Student Education (MSE) Program through fiscal year 2025 rather than relying on the current annual authorizations for the program.

“I am thankful for my colleagues’ continued support on this critical legislation and look forward to working with them to move this bill across the finish line and bring relief to areas that face severe healthcare provider shortages,” Rep. Cole said on Wednesday.

First created in 2019 by Rep. Cole and former U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the MSE Program provides grants to public institutions of higher education to expand or support graduate education for physicians in states with the most severe primary care provider shortages.   

Rep. Cole introduced the Medical Student Education Authorization Act, H.R. 3046, alongside original cosponsor U.S. Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), while the same-named S. 1403 was introduced by U.S. Sens. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).

“It is well known that medical students and residents are likely to practice in communities similar to their own and to ones similar to where they were trained,” said Rep. Cole. “By offering medical training and education in rural, tribal and underserved communities and focusing on recruiting students from these areas, the Medical Student Education Program works to place providers in these communities long-term and ensure access to quality health care.”

The congressman also pointed out that one key indicator of the program’s current success in tribal communities is the fact that nearly half of medical students self-identify as Native American and are enrolled in a medical school participating in the program.

“We need a whole-of-government approach to address the physician shortages plaguing communities here in Nevada and across the country,” added Rep. Titus. “By supporting medical student training in underserved areas, we can invest in the next generation of providers while improving care access and patient outcomes.”

The measure has been endorsed by several entities, including the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the Children’s Hospital Association, the National Rural Health Association, the National Indian Health Board, the National Council of Urban Indian Health, and the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation, among others.