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Debt and income concerns deter medical students from primary care careers
Date:9/21/2012

ecialty physicians started growing in earnest in 1979, and now we're seeing the consequences of that ongoing trend," noted Martha Grayson, M.D., senior associate dean of medical education at Einstein and the study's lead author. (Dr. Grayson was at New York Medical College at the time of the study.)

Among those surveyed in the study, 30 percent of students who entered medical school intending to become a primary care physician switched their preference to a high-paying specialty by the time they graduated. Compared to classmates who didn't change their minds about entering primary care, the switching group placed a significantly higher value on income and expected a debt load that was 11 percent greater than those who ultimately chose a primary care career.

Based on an Association of American Medical Colleges survey of residents and fellows taken in 2010, 86 percent of medical students graduated with some education debt in 2010. The average debt was $158,000. Thirty percent of graduates had debt exceeding $200,000. "While the amount of debt medical students take on is well-known, there hasn't been much research to assess how students respond to this pressure," said Dr. Grayson.

The study suggests that measures should be explored to encourage primary care careers such as incentive pay, debt forgiveness, additional scholarships and higher reimbursement for primary care services, in order to meet the growing need.

The study's findings come as the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects a shortage of 63,000 physicians by 2015, the vast majority of those in primary care.

The paper is titled "Payback Time: The Association of Debt and Income with Medical Student Career Choice." In addition to Dr. Grayson, the other authors are Dale Newton, M.D., at East Carolina University, and Lori Foster Thompson, Ph.D., at North Carolina S
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Contact: Deirdre Branley
sciencenews@einstein.yu.edu
718-430-3101
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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