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Money key factor in driving med students from primary care careers
Date:9/21/2012

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The study found that anticipated debt was a significant factor in the students' career decisions. Graduating students who pursued high-paying specialties were facing average student loans of approximately $104,000, whereas those who chose primary care faced an average debt of less than $94,000. Students facing higher debt were also more likely to switch to high-paying specialties including more than 30 percent of students who had expected to become primary care physicians when they entered medical school.

First-year and graduating students who chose to pursue one of the high-paying specialties also rated income as being significantly more important than students who chose to pursue primary care. In addition, those graduating students who felt income was more important than they had as first-years were more likely to have switched to a high-paying specialty.

Other factors that guide student decisions about what specialty to pursue include parental or peer pressure, lifestyle desires and the exposure to more specialties once students reach medical school, though this study did not look at those issues specifically.

"The other major factor in choosing a primary care career is a service commitment wanting to help others," adds Dr. Dale Newton, a professor of pediatrics at ECU. "Measuring such a commitment in a research setting is very difficult, however."

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.

In addition, Newton says, "If the current efforts at health care reform continue, the incomes of primary care physicians should improve over the next few years. Primary care has to play a major role in the new health care paradigm."

The study's findings come as the Association of American Medical Colleges projects a sh
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Contact: Matt Shipman
matt_shipman@ncsu.edu
919-515-6386
North Carolina State University
Source:Eurekalert

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