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Study Foresees Shortage of Primary-Care Doctors
Date:12/5/2012

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Fewer medical students are choosing careers in primary care, and instead are opting to become specialists, a new study found.

The study, which appears in the medical-education-themed Dec. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, fuels concerns that there will be a shortage of primary-care doctors available when patients need them most.

Researchers surveyed internal medicine residents about their career plans. Of nearly 17,000 third-year residents, only 21.5 percent were planning on a career as an internal medicine doctor. This included about 40 percent of students in a primary-care residency program and about 20 percent of those in a categorical residency program. These are two different tracks available within an internal medicine residency program.

Women were more likely to choose internal medicine than men, and U.S. medical school graduates were slightly more likely to opt for a career in internal medicine than international graduates, the study showed.

"This is worrisome," said study author Dr. Colin West, an internist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. "In the next decade, we will be 50,000 primary-care physicians short for the needs of the country."

Compounding the likely shortage is health care reform under the Affordable Care Act, which is expected to flood the system with new patients in the coming years.

"We will need even more primary-care physicians as the foundation of care and we are not generating enough," West said. And, in addition to fewer residents choosing internal medicine and more patients having access to health care, many providers are getting older and heading to retirement.

"The difficulty that many people have already experienced with access to their regular physician will get significantly worse," West said. "Access to primary care is threatened by these numbe
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