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Doctors' sense of mission, self-identity key in choice to work in underserved areas
Date:10/27/2010

Medical schools and clinics could boost the number of primary care physicians in medically underserved areas by selecting and encouraging students from these communities, who often exhibit a strong sense of responsibility for and identification with the people there, according to a new study by UCLA researchers and colleagues published in the current issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

Training these students in underserved settings during medical school and their residencies could also increase the likelihood they would continue serving those populations, the researchers found. Physicians-in-training who are not from underserved populations or who do not train in such areas are unlikely to work for any length in these communities.

The findings highlight the importance of identifying doctors who are motivated by mission-based values such as a sense of responsibility to a particular community or patient population early in medical training, said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, who led the study while in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

"In the current health care reform debate, if health insurance coverage increases, residents in areas with an inadequate physician supply will have greater difficulty receiving timely and appropriate clinical care, and this could create poorer population health indicators," said Walker, now an assistant clinical professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

In their findings, which were based on in-depth interviews with 42 Los Angeles County African American, Hispanic and non-Hispanic white primary care physicians in both underserved and non-underserved areas, the researchers noted three themes that emerged to explain physicians' choice of practice location: personal motivators, career motivators and clinic support.

Physicians who worked in underser
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Contact: Enrique Rivero
erivero@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2273
University of California -- Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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