May 13, 2009

Oversimplifying Primary Care Supply and Shortages

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor (Dr Freed); Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Dr Freed); Department of Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Dr Freed); and American Board of Pediatrics, Chapel Hill, North Carolina (Dr Stockman).

JAMA. 2009;301(18):1920-1922. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.619

Recent reports have warned of a crisis related to a shortage of primary care physicians.1 However, much of the current concern seems to have stemmed from articles in the medical literature specifically reporting that fewer internal medicine residents are choosing to pursue primary care and that fewer medical students are choosing family medicine residencies. Hauer et al2 found, among a national sample of fourth-year medical students, that only 22% planned careers in internal medicine and just 2% intended to practice general internal medicine. Ebell3 hypothesized that fewer medical students are choosing primary care specialties as a result of lower salaries relative to other specialties. It is important to note that the results of his trend-line analysis showed this was true only for family physicians.

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