America Needs More Family Physicians

By The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, Special for  USDR

For more than a decade, the medical industry has been sounding the alarm about the shortage of primary care physicians and how it may be harmful to the health of the United States, particularly for the underserved. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration there were 6,100 counties designated Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) in the United States as of June 19, 2014. That designation means the physician-to-population ratio exceeds the minimum of 1:3,500 considered necessary for adequate  access.

American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) leadership believes filling the family physician workforce pipeline is vital to the health of Americans. At a time when the U.S. is seeing a decline in the numbers of physicians entering primary care, the academy reports that family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical  specialty.

The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University was ranked among the nation’s top five medical schools again this year for the high percentage of its graduates pursuing careers in family medicine. The Brody School of Medicine was legislatively founded on a mission of producing primary care physicians and encouraging those physicians to stay in the state to serve North  Carolinians.

“Without strengthening the primary care base in our nation, we will not be able to improve the delivery of health care across the continuum of a patient’s life, nor improve the value of care we are offering – in both quality and cost-reduction,” noted Dr. Elizabeth Baxley, Brody’s senior associate dean for academic affairs. “We are especially proud of the fact that we hold the cost of a medical education to a level that allows Brody graduates to choose their specialty based on their heart, not their  pocketbook.”

According to the AAFP’s most recent rankings report, primary care – which includes family medicine, general pediatrics, general internal medicine and obstetrics/gynecology – has been demonstrated to improve health care outcomes and reduce health disparities while also reducing health care costs. Approximately one in five of all medical office visits are made to family physicians, according to AAFP data. That totals nearly 192 million office visits annually — nearly 66 million more than the next largest medical  specialty.

“Our top 5 national ranking by AAFP is evidence of our long-standing commitment to provide talented and committed primary care physicians, specifically for North Carolina,” said Dr. Cecil Staton, Chancellor,  ECU.

North Carolina in particular is reporting increasing shortages of primary care doctors in rural and economically depressed areas of the state. The Association of American Medical Colleges consistently ranks Brody better than 90 percent of the nation’s medical schools for graduating physicians who practice in-state, as well as in rural and underserved  areas.

According to the AAFP, Brody has sent an average of 16.7 percent of its graduates into family medicine the past three years – almost double the national average of 8.7 percent. Fifty-five percent of Brody graduates remain in primary care five years after  graduation.

Because of its innovative curriculum, Brody was also one of only 11 medical schools nationwide to receive a five-year, $1 million grant in 2013 from the American Medical Association and to join the inaugural group of consortium schools tasked with developing ways to better prepare the nation’s future health care  workforce.

About  Brody
The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University is nationally recognized for preparing primary care physicians who practice in medically underserved communities. All those admitted are North Carolina residents and the majority of its graduates practice primary care in North Carolina. Brody’s research includes a strong focus on cardiovascular disease, diabetes and preventive  care.

About  AAFP
Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 124,900 family physicians, residents and medical students nationwide. The AAFP website defines the basis of family medicine as “an ongoing, personal, patient-physician relationship focused on integrated  care.”

Family medicine encompasses comprehensive health care for individuals and their families, incorporating the biological, clinical and behavioral sciences, and encompassing all ages, sexes, organ systems and  diseases.

SOURCE The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina  University

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.