MedEdits | Medical School Admissions Consulting

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Medical Students Choosing Primary Care

An interesting article from the New England Journal of Medicine discusses the shortage of primary care physicians in the United States. Fewer medical students graduating from United States medical schools choose to specialize in primary care, opting for "lifestyle" specialties to earn higher incomes and to have greater control over their lives. As a result, more primary care residency positions are being filled by US and non-US citizen international medical graduates.

I find that some students base their specialty choice on average salary, perceived status and the possibility of a better work/life balance. This is a common misconception, however, that choosing to specialize in anesthesiology, radiology, emergency medicine or other "lifestyle" fields will afford a better balance.

Many women choose to specialize in pediatrics and work part time. And, while these pediatricians may not make the big bucks, they do enjoy more free time. Some of my friends and colleagues who chose other specialties are not really happier than those who chose primary care. Primary care physicians often feel they have greater control of their lives and work fewer evenings, nights, weekends and holidays. Perhaps seeking out mentors who are good role models would encourage more medical students to practice primary care.

I encourage all of my clients to consider their career choices carefully. Money should be only one part of the equation to make this choice. Hopefully health care reforms will help equalize the pay discrepancies of specialists and primary providers which may increase the number of students who choose primary care.

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