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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Medical schools taking additional steps to highlight primary care

U.S. medical schools are taking steps to get more of their students interested in primary care as student enrollment is expected to increase in coming years.

In a recent survey by the Association of American Medical Colleges' (AAMC) Center for Workforce Studies, 76 percent of medical school deans reported that they had or were planning at least one initiative aimed at generating more student interest in primary care. These included changing admissions criteria and curriculum, adding extracurricular opportunities, expanding faculty training, or offering reduced tuition and other financial incentives. The survey pointed out that these plans don't always become reality. Of the 46 schools that said in 2010 that they planned to establish primary care initiatives within two years, only a third had followed through by 2012.

Overall, the medical school deans surveyed estimated that first-year medical school enrollment would reach 21,434 by 2017. That's a 30 percent increase from AAMC's baseline school year of 2002.

More than three-quarters of medical school deans expressed concerns that there wouldn't be enough clinical training sites for their students, and 82 percent worried about the number of qualified primary care preceptors available to satisfy growing enrollment.

Forty-two percent also said they had "major concerns" about enrollment outpacing growth in the number of residency positions available nationally, although only 14 percent said they had "major concerns" over their students being able to find a residency position of their choice after graduation.

Regardless, the AAMC used the survey results to call for Congress to allocate more funding for residency positions; the AAFP and other medical organizations have expressed similar concerns.

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