Primary care physicians are at the heart of health care in the United States, and are often the first to diagnose patients and ensure those patients receive the care they need. But researchers from North Carolina State University, East Carolina University (ECU) and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York have found that many students are choosing to pass up a career in primary care because those physicians make substantially less money than specialists, such as dermatologists or radiologists.
"We found that students who placed a premium on high income and students who anticipated having a lot of student debt were significantly more likely to pursue a high-paying medical specialty rather than become primary care physicians," says Dr. Lori Foster Thompson, a professor of psychology at N.C. State and co-author of a paper describing the research. "This held true even for students who entered medical school with the goal of becoming primary care physicians they often switched to high-paying specialties before graduating."
The study, published online this week in Medical Education, surveyed more than 2,500 medical students attending New York Medical College and the Brody School of Medicine at ECU between 1993 and 2012. Students were surveyed at the beginning of their first year of medical school and just before graduation four years later. The survey asked the students what sort of medical career they planned to pursue, to estimate their final student loans and to rate the value they place on income.
The researchers then looked at those students planning to pursue a career in primary care, as well as those students planning to pursue any of the 12 specialties with a median income of more than $300,000 per year, based on 2010 salary data. By comparison, primary care physicians had a median income of just under $200,000 per year. Primary care consists of internal medicine, family medicine and pediatri
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North Carolina State University