Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
As a future primary care physician, I strongly support the call for cultivating physician leadership in primary care, particularly in underserved areas, presented by Markuns and colleagues.1 But to act on that call, medical educators must work together to reach out to the future leaders, our nation's medical students.
This outreach will occur in the context of dwindling student interest in primary care. In 2008, fewer than 25% of senior medical students were considering careers in this area2; today's percentage is probably about the same. Such declining interest is a complex issue, as debt, the nature of medical school curricula, availability of loan forgiveness and scholarship programs, and other factors influence students' decisions to pursue primary care.3
From the beginning of training, students must be afforded diverse experiences in primary care. These would ideally include exposure to rural, suburban, and urban areas in private and underserved care delivery settings. Students expressing an interest should be supported through robust mentorship programs, enhancing career planning and cultivating leadership skills. Finally, a concerted effort by educators, government agencies, and community health organizations must be made to increase the visibility of existing financial incentive programs designed to bolster the primary care workforce.
Ryan Van Ramshorst
Medical student and National Health Service Corps Scholar, 2008–2010, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas; firstname.lastname@example.org.
1Markuns JF, Culpepper L, Halpin WJ. A need for leadership in primary health care for the underserved: A call to action. Acad Med. 2009;84:1325–1327.
2Hauer KE, Durning SJ, Kernan WN, et al. Factors associated with medical students' career choices regarding internal medicine. JAMA. 2008;300:1154–1164.