Are family physicians the Rodney Dangerfields of medicine?

Family medicine is the backbone of U.S. healthcare, says a fourth-year student at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine.

Like the comedian Rodney Dangerfield, family physicians sometimes may feel like they "get no respect."

It’s a perception that starts in medical school, writes Lauren Abdul-Majeed, in a post on the American Academy of Family Physicians’ Leader Voices Blog.

A fourth-year student at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, Abdul-Majeed wrote that during a recent internal medicine rotation, a senior resident was concerned she was wasting her talents by choosing a career in family medicine because she wouldn’t see the more complex patients he sees in internal medicine.

It isn’t uncommon for students who want to become family physicians to face pushback that they are "too smart" to "settle" for family medicine, she says. Students are encouraged to seek careers in surgical and other medical specialties.

But Abdul-Majeed has a message for other medical students. “I want to assure you that this outdated perception of prestige is changing; it is becoming increasingly evident that family medicine is the backbone of U.S. healthcare, and health policy and physician payment reform have begun to reflect that,” she writes.

With a projected shortage of primary care physicians in the next 20 years, it’s increasingly important that students choose careers in family medicine, she says. That disparaging attitude—that students are “too smart” to choose primary care—which exists during training, has contributed to the country’s shortage of primary care doctors, according to one study. And those who choose family medicine are not compromising on the scope or complexity of medical practice, since these doctors often see patients with complex and diverse issues exceeding that of other specialties, she says.