Nearly three in 10 medical school graduates are interested in primary-care careers, reflecting a sharp rise fueled by new marketplace demand, a new report indicates.
The Association of American Medical Colleges' 1995 survey of more than 12,000 medical school graduates showed that 27.6% are seeking careers in family practice, general internal medicine or general pediatrics. It's the third consecutive year that interest in primary care has increased, nearly doubling 1992 figures when only 14.6% of graduates wanted to be generalists. In 1993 some 19.3% of graduates were leaning toward primary care, and in 1994 22.8% of seniors opted for generalist careers.
"This is a real trend and not bumps or blips in the data," said Jordan Cohen, M.D., president of the AAMC. "We have reliable indicators that this trend will continue, and there's nothing that we see that would suggest that it's not going to continue."
National work-force requirements are demanding that half of medical school graduates enter primary-care fields. "We're not home free yet and cannot relax our efforts if future generations are to be assured a U.S.-educated and well-trained generalist physician work force," Cohen said.
Meanwhile, interest in many physician subspecialties has dropped. For example, graduates planning careers in anesthesiology dropped to 2.9% from 6.8% three years ago, the AAMC said.
Some academic medical centers have said they fear that their missions as teaching institutions could suffer if they can't fill some of their specialty and subspecialty slots (April 3, p. 18).
"There's no question that the country will need highly trained specialists and subspecialists," Cohen said. "It's a question of balancing the spectrum of specialties to be more in line with the needs of the system."
But the trend is only reflecting what the market is demanding, the author of the survey said.
"The generalist renaissance is the product of greater exposure of students to primary care, propitious changes in the marketplace and a better view of the handwriting on the wall," said Donald Kassebaum, M.D., vice president for the AAMC's division of education research and assessment.