More Interest in Primary Care, But are Medical Schools Ready?

Dec 20, 2012

Interesting story from the American Medical Association’s news wire today about the growing number of medical students who are opting to pursue careers in family medicine. Students matched with family medicine residencies are up 14%this year from 2008, the writer reports (based on information from the national residency matching program).

But the story also points out that some of the nation’s most revered medical schools might not be ready to train new family medicine practitioners. Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Yale, and Harvard have no family medicine departments, although some do offer concentrations in primary care and general medicine.

And why does any of this matter? Well, the Affordable Care Act and our nation’s changing health care needs are demanding more of an emphasis on preventative care (as opposed to treating a problem once it gets bad, and often more expensively), not only as a way to bring down costs but also because it’s just better for patients. But we’ve got what many experts call a shortage of primary care doctors now, and we’re not turning new primary care doctors out fast enough to fill the projected gap (some say that gap will be tens of thousands in just a couple of decades). So it looks like medical schools have a big role to play if we’re going to build the health care workforce we need for the future.