Debt, Income Concerns Deter Medical Students From Primary Care Careers

Student debt and income expectations may be discouraging medical school students away from primary care careers into more highly paid specialty careers, according to researchers at Yeshiva University, East Carolina University and North Carolina State University.

For the study, researchers surveyed more than 2,500 medical school students attending either New York Medical College or the Brody School of Medicine from 1992 to 2010. Researchers surveyed these students to determine the area of medicine they planned to enter, their anticipated debt, annual income and the level of importance placed on income in general.

Results from the surveys showed medical students with higher levels of debt and who placed a premium on high income were more likely to enter a medical specialty, such as anesthesiology or radiology. Specifically, 30 percent of students who intended to become a primary care physician switched their preference to a higher paid specialty by graduation.

The researchers suggest certain measures to encourage primary care careers, including debt forgiveness, incentive pay, additional scholarships and higher reimbursement for primary care services.

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