A greater percentage of graduates from the rural tracks of the University of New Mexico's family medicine program end up practicing in rural areas, compared with graduates of a similar urban-based program, according to a study that tracked 317 family physicians who graduated from UNM's residency programs from 1974 to 2004.
Sixty-five percent of UNM residents in rural programs based in Santa Fe, Roswell and Las Cruces chose to practice in rural areas in New Mexico, compared with 26% of the graduates from the urban program in Albuquerque, according to the study, which was published in the August issue of Academic Medicine.
The study also found that 35% of minority graduates practiced in rural areas, compared with 27% of nonminority graduates.
UNM, along with state and federal programs, is helping fill the need for about 500 family-care physicians in the state, said Jerry Harrison, executive director of New Mexico Health Resources. As it stands, of New Mexico's 33 counties, all or part of 30 counties are designated medical shortage areas, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.
Arthur Kaufman, chairman of UNM's Family and Community Medicine Department, said the locum tenens program, which gives medical residents the option to work in rural areas relieving physicians, allows students to see the results of their interventions and prompts some graduates to stay.
"When you expose them to rural communities at a time when they are soon to practice, and they see the kind of love and affection that comes from the communities that are trying to recruit them, it's a startling experience," Kaufman said.