The Fight for Family Medicine

It’s no secret that there are a few medical schools that intentionally discourage students from entering the field of family medicine. Unlike other medical specialties, primary care is seen as less prestigious than say, radiology. And while salary plays an important part in which medical field a student chooses, so too does medical school staff. There are those who steer young doctors away from specific practices but they are doing students and their future patients a disservice. Not only does this attitude prevent students from pursuing what they love, it further exacerbates the primary care physician shortage. Fortunately, students and advocates for family medicine are fighting back with educational programs and local opportunities that emphasize the importance of pursuing primary care.

Finding Their Match

A great indicator that family medicine is on the rise can be seen by this year’s National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). For the fourth year in a row, the Match revealed a slight increase in students choosing family medicine. AAFP President Jeff Cain, M.D., said that the Match results were a “call to action moment” in regard to our nation’s health care crisis. “The results of the 2013 Match highlight the AAFP’s ongoing efforts to position family medicine as a solution to the country’s health care challenges,” said Cain.

He also noted that “students are hearing that choosing family medicine offers them a chance to enter a rewarding career with a bright future, and we need to continue to focus on that message and build momentum moving forward.”

Schools Stepping Up to the Challenge

Encouraging primary care should start early and some areas of the U.S. are making the effort. San Joaquin Valley in California, for example, doesn’t have enough primary care physicians to take care of the population. But opportunities are growing in the valley with three new residency programs starting in July 2013. The goal of these programs is to not only create an environment for future family doctors, but to also serve their medically under-served community.

Medical institutions in Ohio are also stepping up to the plate to help produce a new population of physicians. Northeast Ohio Medical University and Hiram College are working together to recruit students in an unexpected way – recruiting students seeking a liberal arts education that later leads to a medical degree. NEOMED president Dr. Jay Gershen said, “The partnership with Hiram College will serve our area in many ways that range from enriching the educational experiences of students to diversifying the health care work force and serving those in greatest need.”

The Family Medicine Revolution

With the help of the California Academy of Family Physician’s Foundation, students throughout California are raising their voices to raise awareness about the specialty of family medicine. The goals of this revolution are:

  1. To increase the ‘hip factor’ of pursuing a career in family medicine by emphasizing the breadth and depth of our specialty
  2. To rally family physicians around the country through empowering and inspiring messages that validate our important role in our health care system
  3. To increase awareness of the value of family doctors among the general public

Family medicine is a wonderful specialty and this group of inspiring young individuals wants everyone to know about it. Follow the #FMRevolution on Twitter to learn how your peers are putting family medicine on the map.

There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but the future of family medicine looks bright. Medical students and residents who feel that they were born for this profession shouldn’t be stopped from pursuing their dreams. Their love of medicine should be nurtured, not hindered. The good news is that the family medicine community is growing stronger every day, working hard to get this nation’s health care system back on track – one patient at a time.

Sound off: What is being done in your practice or community to raise awareness about the family medicine specialty?


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