Medical schools overestimate number of graduates who specialize in primary care, experts say

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Many medical school graduates who complete their residency in primary care switch into different specialities later. That makes medical schools' estimates of its graduates entering family medicine largely inaccurate, NPR reported May 18. 

"You don't know what somebody is going to do until they finish residency," Mark Deutchman, MD, a family medicine professor at the University of Colorado in Denver told NPR.

While medical schools report about 40 percent of graduates enter a primary care residency, that later turned into just 22 percent, according to a study led by Dr. Deutchman published last year in Family Medicine. The research involved 17,509 medical students from 14 U.S. universities who graduated between 2003-14. 

The American Association of Medical Colleges told NPR the findings may not provide an accurate picture, highlighting that 30 new medical schools have opened in the U.S. since 2006.

Ada Stewart, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians said while medical schools have been graduating record numbers of physicians into family medicine residencies over the last decade, many end up switching into higher paying specialities.

"We may have to look at a more focused analysis of how many individuals are actually going into the specialty of family medicine," Dr. Stewart told NPR

Jobs in higher paying specialties are largely in cities, further compounding the primary care shortage in rural areas, experts told the news outlet. 

 

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