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New law addressing Alabama’s doctor shortage takes effect Aug. 1

The bill accelerates processes for out-of-state and international physicians to begin practicing in the state.

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A new Alabama law goes into effect on Tuesday that is designed to increase the number of physicians in the state.

Alabama needs more physicians just to meet current healthcare demands, according to the Medical Association of the State of Alabama. This shortage of doctors puts a strain on the healthcare system and means patients can experience delays in getting medical care.

The Physician Workforce Act was approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Kay Ivey in May. The new law eliminates an additional test designed to test current knowledge known as the SPEX (Special Purpose Exam), in hopes that it will allow doctors from other states begin practicing medicine in Alabama sooner.

It also accelerates licensure for International Medical Graduates by allowing them to apply for a medical license a year earlier during their training. The bill also creates an apprenticeship-like program for medical school graduates who were not matched into a residency program so they train under the supervision of a fully licensed Alabama physician while they reapply for residency.

“The Physician Workforce Act will expand the pool of trained physicians practicing in our state, improve patient access to timely care and put Alabama on the path toward a healthier future,” said Dr. George Koulianos, a Mobile doctor who serves as president of the Medical Association.

Starting August 1, the current requirements for SPEX testing will be eliminated for out of state physicians wanting to practice medicine in Alabama; International Medical Graduates, who make up 20 percent of Alabama’s current physician workforce, will be eligible to take the final exam in the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination process after two years of residency training; and the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners will begin crafting rules to govern the apprenticeship-like program. 

For more information on the Physician Workforce Act, visit

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Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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