What drives students to pursue internal medicine in underserved regions: 5 notes

Few internal medicine physicians enter the field intending to work in medically underserved areas of the U.S., but a new study sheds light on what draws in the ones who choose to do so.

Researchers analyzed data from 67,050 surveys completed by graduating medical students and found the following: 

  1. Of the 67,050 students, 8,363 noted an intent to pursue internal medicine.

  2. About 23.4 percent, or 1,969, of the individuals who intend to pursue internal medicine said they plan to work in a medically underserved area.
  3. Black and Hispanic medical students were more likely to indicate their intent to practice internal medicine in a medically underserved region.

  4. Students who reported having debt amounts greater than $300,000 were also more likely to specify an intent to practice in medically underserved areas.

  5. Students who indicated they had experiences with health disparities were also more likely to want to practice in a medically underserved area.

In the midst of the ongoing physician shortage nationwide, researchers noted it is particularly grim for the field of internal medicine and understanding more about the factors that continue to drive students to enter the field, will help determine how to further fill gaps in care nationwide.

To fill the gaps in internal medicine, particularly in medically underserved areas, researchers recommend medical schools prioritize putting into place "admission and recruitment policies facilitating a more diverse medical student body, increased opportunities for experience with global health, community research, and/or health disparities and increased awareness about programs that ease the debt load of future physicians choosing to practice in  [medically underserved areas]," they wrote. "Wide implementation of these measures can serve as a starting point to fill much needed gaps in culturally competent care among the aging U.S. adult population."

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