Med schools focus on primary care to thwart physician shortage

Medical schools are beefing up their primary-care offerings to deter a looming shortage of primary-care physicians. The shortage is expected to reach more than 39,000 by 2020, notes U.S. News and World Report.

To attract more students to this less lucrative specialty--which includes family medicine, internal medicine and general pediatrics--medical schools are creating exclusive centers and programs tailored to it.

For example, last year Texas Tech developed a "fast-track" program that compresses four years of schooling into three for students who choose to practice primary care. The University of Connecticut School of Medicine and St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center plan to establish a program that will provide additional clinical experiences, as well as mentors to guide students through their primary-care training.

States also are helping to expand the pool of primary-care doctors by offering loan repayment and forgiveness to primary-care practitioners, notes U.S. News. For example, primary-care doctors practicing in underserved areas in Massachusetts and Virginia can slash up to $50,000 from their debt in exchange for two years of service.

Med schools hope this increased investment will help primary care keep up with patient demand. Currently fewer than 10 percent of medical school grads choose to practice family medicine. However, the tide may already be changing as more medical students entered family medicine residencies this year.

For more:
- read the U.S News and World Report article