Increasing Primary Care Physicians

NPA member Stephen Smith has written a compelling piece in the New England Journal of Medicine on how to increase the number of physicians entering primary care. With the implementation of health care reform, demand for primary care physicians will be increasing. In addition, health care systems that promote treatment by primary care physicians decrease costs over the long haul.
So, how does one increase the number of medical students entering primary care? According to Dr. Smith, reform begins at the medical school. Admissions committees need to broaden the attributes valued in applicants to include altruism, commitment to social responsibility and desire to work with underserved populations. He also advocates a patient-centered learning approach. Learning would be integrated into focused evaluation of a patient’s problems and case studies would return to the same patient as one would in a real clinic. Such a curriculum would focus on the competencies of primary care physicians, with a focus on functioning in an interdisciplinary environment. Training would be offered in community settings. These are important ideas in how to encourage medical students to enter primary care by nourishing the innate interest in service, integrity and advocacy that many medical students demonstrate.
Check out the article at the NEJM.