Med student interest in primary care continues to decline

June 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

Graduating medical school seniors pursuing careers as doctors are more apt to choose a non-primary care specialty in 2003.

Graduating medical school seniors pursuing careers as doctors are more apt to choose a non-primary care specialty in 2003, according to the Leawood, KS-based American Academy of Family Physicians. According to information released by the National Resident Matching Program, the 2003 initial fill rate for family practice residency programs is 76.2%, or 2,239 positions filled out of 2,940 positions offered. This represents a 5% decrease from last year's initial fill rate and continues a six-year trend that began in 1997.

The decline in student interest in family medicine careers is not limited to U.S. allopathic medical school graduates. In 2003, osteopathic family practice residency programs filled only 51.6% of their positions (215 positions out of 417 openings). Similarly, the Canadian Resident Matching Services reported a family practice residency fill rate of only 79% (345 positions out of 484 openings).

"This continuing decline in the number of future family physicians will be devastating to the health of the American people," said James C. Martin, president of the AAFP. "Family doctors conduct almost 200 million office visits each year - that's 75 million more visits than any other medical specialty."

Reasons for the decline

Martin indicated that the continuing decline is due to medical school admissions policies, poor faculty role models, a medical school culture prone to disparaging family medicine, extraordinary hours worked for inadequate reimbursement, a limited scope of practice and the general feeling that family physicians are not as highly valued as subspecialists.

"The current U.S. healthcare system does not appropriately value the essential function of family physicians," said Martin. "This undervaluation is especially apparent in two areas: the system's inadequate reimbursement for patient services, including those provided by the federal government to Medicare patients, and a negative medical school educational environment." PR

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