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Putting a Priority on Primary Care

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Many physicians avoid primary care because becoming a specialist can significantly improve their earning potential. Some primary care providers are even reporting being advised to avoid primary care early on in their training.

Maybe some of you in our reading audience have been given this advice throughout the course of your training. Please understand…it wasn't necessarily bad advice, but according to a story from NPR, healthcare reform may turn that wise advice into old hat. One student interviewed said the justification his instructors used to give him for discouraging family medicine centered around the long hours and low pay and lack of intellectual rigor.

Yet, for all of its complexities and controversial elements, healthcare reform may prove to be most revolutionary when it comes to emphasizing primary care over specialized care.

This shift in focus, of course, is forcing schools who have long been a leader in specialization to seriously consider adding family medicine to their curriculum. In spite of many contributions to healthcare and the near-universal respect each has achieved, John Hopkins, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, and Cornell do not have departments of family medicine. Until now, these schools have devoted themselves to research and specialization.

However, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, no stranger to the upper echelons of medical education, has unveiled a department of family medicine for the first time in 2012. In conjunction with the Institute for Family Health, Mount Sinai is hoping to lead the pack as other schools jump aboard the family-medicine bandwagon.

The article also implies that family medicine may very well be the specialty of the future.

Neil Calman, president and CEO of the Institute for Family Health, told NPR, "I think people are finally realizing that the country will be bankrupt if we continue to admit people and readmit people for conditions that could be prevented with good primary care.”

It will be interesting, not just for those of us who cover healthcare news, but for physicians everywhere to see how this trend develops over the ensuing years as family medicine gains more and more prestige.

How will this stark break from the past impact physicians who are considering what jobs they’ll hold in the future? Is it a reasonable prediction that more physicians will go the family-medicine route than the specialty route? What are the advantages and disadvantages to this?

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