Only 2% of Medical Students Plan To Pursue Primary Care Practices
Two percent of medical students in a survey said they planned to go into general internal medicine, according to a Journal of the American Medical Association study published Wednesday, USA Today reports.
According to the study, general internists provide a large portion of care for older patients and people with chronic illnesses, but the number of students becoming general internists is declining as the number of older U.S. residents is expected to nearly double between 2005 and 2030. The survey notes that according to one estimate, there will be a shortage of 200,000 doctors in the U.S. by 2020.
Study author Karen Hauer, a general internist and UC-San Francisco faculty member, said the survey of 1,177 students at 11 U.S. medical schools found that quality-of-life factors, such as income and work hours, influenced the students' decisions not to practice general internal medicine. Hauer said that medical students' amount of debt did not seem to influence their choice of specialty (Rubin, USA Today, 9/10).
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average medical school graduate in 2007 had $140,000 in student debt, up by nearly 8% from 2006 (Johnson, AP/Boston Globe, 9/10).
A letter to the editor by Mark Ebell of the University of Georgia, which also was published this month in JAMA, ranks internal medicine as one of the lowest paying medical specialties (USA Today, 9/10).
A study by Ebell found that U.S. medical students are seeking residencies in higher paying specialties.
In 2007, family medicine had the lowest average salary of $186,000, with 42% of residency spots filled by U.S. students. Meanwhile, orthopedic surgery had an average salary of $436,000, with 94% of residency spots filled by U.S. students (AP/Boston Globe, 9/10).
Richard Deichmann, associate medical director of primary care at the Ochsner Medical Center, said that about 1% to 2% of doctors who finish internal residency programs go on to practice general internal medicine, while about half become hospitalists and the other half become sub-specialists (USA Today, 9/10).
Although there were 2,600 fewer U.S. doctors training in primary care specialties from 2002 to 2007, the number of foreign graduates pursuing those careers rose by 3,300, according to a separate JAMA study.
Study co-author Edward Salsberg of AAMC said, "Primary care is holding steady but only because of international medical school graduates" (AP/Boston Globe, 9/10).
On Tuesday, NBC's "Nightly News" reported on the study (Williams, "Nightly News," NBC, 9/9).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.