It’s no surprise we are at a loss for primary care physicians in our nation. Primary care includes the specialties of Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Family Medicine. Did you know that 98% of residents completing an internal medicine residency subspecialize to become cardiologists, gastroenterologists, pulmonologists, endocrinologists, etc? 85% of pediatric residents subspecialize. On the other hand, 98.9% of family medicine residents stay in family medicine.
This July 284 residents started their training in Alabama. Out of those 146 entered residencies in primary care. 74 in Internal Medicine,25 in Pediatrics, 42 in Family Medicine and 5 in a combined Medicine/Pediatrics program. Given the percentages above that means that in 3 years when these physicians are beginning their practices we’ll have 41.5 family medicine docs entering practice, 1.5 internal medicine docs and 3.75 pediatricians. The rest will be starting fellowships to further narrow their area of expertise.
So when I hear discussions from the powers that be about how to recruit more medical students into the field of primary care and specifically family medicine I am all for it. Not everyone needs a cardiologist or rheumatologist but everyone does need their own doctor that knows their medical problems and medications, can see them when they get sick and also treat their diabetes, congestive heart failure and other chronic diseases. Everyone needs a doctor that they see for routine check ups to order the tests and procedures needed to prevent further disease down the road, and knows when they need to tap into the expert opinion of the specialists. That’s what family medicine doctors provide, we call it a medical home for our patients.
Brooke Uptagrafft, MD
Dr. Brooke is a family medicine doctor.