The state of things

Best and worst states for doctors in 2020: Minnesota leads the way, Arizona comes in last

Medscape’s 2020 rankings took each state’s COVID-19 response into account alongside the usual factors such as compensation and practice conditions.


If you’re a physician in Minnesota, your job satisfaction is likely significantly higher than it would be if you resided in Arizona, according to Medscape, which recently released its 2020 list of the best and worst states for doctors in the time of COVID-19.

Medscape weighed each state’s “preparedness and responsiveness” to the ongoing pandemic against the typical factors it looks at, which include compensation, practice conditions and quality of life.

Following that methodology, the top 10 states for physicians to practice in 2020, according to Medscape, are as follows:

  1. Minnesota
  2. Washington
  3. Massachusetts
  4. North Dakota
  5. Vermont
  6. New Hampshire
  7. Colorado
  8. Utah
  9. Nebraska
  10. Idaho

The five worst states were:

  1. Arizona
  2. Mississippi
  3. South Carolina
  4. Nevada
  5. West Virginia

To put these rankings to the test, The DO spoke with osteopathic physicians from one of the top five “best” states and the two “worst” states to learn how accurate they think their state’s ranking is.

The three DOs and their respective states:

  • Caleb Scheckel, DO — Minnesota
  • Shannon Scott, DO — Arizona
  • Katherine Pannel, DO — Mississippi

Do you agree or disagree with your state’s ranking?

Dr. Scheckel (Minnesota): While the metrics used in this report are far from comprehensive, Minnesota overall is a good place to practice medicine in the coronavirus pandemic and I concur with the ranking. Overall, the state response to COVID-19 has been consistent with valuing and preserving patient and provider well-being.

Dr. Pannel (Mississippi): I do not agree at all. I love being a physician, especially an osteopathic physician, in Mississippi. The general public in Mississippi is well-educated about what an osteopathic physician is and often seeks them out for treatment due to their emphasis on treating the whole body. I am proud of our COVID-19 response. We have not had a lack of PPE nor have our hospitals been overwhelmed.

Dr. Scott (Arizona): Speaking as a medical director of a large primary care and OMM practice, we are being hit pretty hard by COVID-19 recently. I came back from a vacation to probably the worst point of the pandemic in our community. That said, Arizona is emerging as a very desirable place to be a doctor.

What do you like about practicing in your state?

Dr. Pannel (Mississippi): Mississippi has both allopathic and osteopathic medical societies that support each other and work with each other to help provide a voice for physicians, so we have great support. We continue to be a physician-led state. Nurse practitioners and PAs must have a physician supervisor to ensure that patients here get the best quality care. Mississippi also has done an excellent job holding strong on tort reform, in an effort to reduce frivolous lawsuits against providers.

Dr. Scott (Arizona): We have a community where you can find work-life balance very easily. The lower burnout and higher physician happiness rates cited in the report ring true to me.

Dr. Scheckel (Minnesota): There are several excellent health systems within the state with a large network of locations. We have access to cutting-edge and innovative technology and hardworking, honest, well-trained staff.

What are the challenges of practicing in your state?

Dr. Scheckel (Minnesota): As recently highlighted in current events, there is great racial disparity and inequity in policing, education and social justice. It’s also a high income tax state.

Dr. Pannel (Mississippi): Physicians in Mississippi have to contend with a monopolistic private insurance company. We often do not have a voice about what needs to happen to improve patient care. This has never been more apparent than it has been during this pandemic. The company refused to acknowledge payment parity with telemedicine and it has really caused physicians to struggle.

Dr. Scott (Arizona): One of the biggest challenges in our state is access to mental health services. This has been published for years and I have not seen an improvement. With the development of multiple health care universities, population health can only get better. Now if we had more residency programs here, we could retain even more of our graduates!

What do you like most about living in your state?

Dr. Scott (Arizona): I have stayed in Arizona due to warm beautiful weather and the warmth of the osteopathic community. The low cost of living has helped with loan repayment and this is a great state to raise a family, since the primary school systems are excellent. The location is also great, considering it is close to the mountains and ocean, each only a short drive away.

Dr. Pannel (Mississippi): The people of Mississippi are wonderful. They are kind and giving. They are appreciative. They make doing the job of a physician enjoyable. They are salt-of-the-earth people who would give you the shirts off their backs. It is not uncommon for my patients to bring me loads of produce from their gardens to show their appreciation.

Dr. Scheckel (Minnesota): It has that friendly Midwestern feel. There are lakes, rivers, ample green spaces and woodlands for outdoor adventure.

Related reading:

Best and worst states for doctors in 2019: Where docs can thrive, according to Medscape

The DO schools on U.S. News’ best med schools list for 2021


  1. Sheryl

    Pain management doctors in Florida are the best! Pain management doctors in Nebraska, not good at all. Florida will put you to sleep for a lot of their procedures. Nebraska tells me that they don’t make enough to put you to sleep. These are painful procedures, and in Florida there is waiting room only. Nebraska only the doctors are waiting, not many patients.

  2. J F Barakeh, DO, PhD

    The ranking of these states is suspiciously partisan. The favorites correlate well with Democrat-controlled states, which are hardly doctor-friendly. Republican states are nearly uniformly better to practice medicine, as they are more willing to let doctors be doctors, with minimal mandates. Let’s stick to real data, with per-capita statistics and the original idea of flattening the curve, instead of moving goalposts to favor blue politics.

Leave a comment Please see our comment policy