Marshall leads U.S. in family practice graduates

# Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins and Cornell rank lowest

By Eric Eyre
Staff writer

No medical school in the nation is graduating more future family doctors than Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.

About 22 percent of Marshall’s medical school graduates entered family practice residencies last year. That tied Florida State University for the highest percentage in the country, according to a recent study published in the journal Family Medicine.

“Family doctors are on the front line of our attempt to create a healthier West Virginia,� said Dr. Robert Walker, who heads Marshall’s Department of Family and Community Health. “Most West Virginia counties have communities that rely on primary care physicians because they don’t have a hospital or city where subspecialists practice.�

Medical schools with the lowest percentage of graduates that went into family medicine included Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins and Cornell universities.

During residencies, medical school graduates receive in-depth training under the supervision of senior physicians.

About 10 percent of West Virginia University medical school students entered family medicine residency programs. The national average was 8.5 percent.

The study examined osteopathic schools separately.

West Virginia’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg had nearly 20 percent of graduates enter primary care residency programs. Nationally, about 14 percent of osteopathic school students decide to become family doctors, who typically earn less than specialists, such as surgeons, radiologists and neurologists.

The study also found that more than 70 percent of West Virginia medical school graduates did their family medicine residencies in state. Only South Carolina and Alabama medical schools kept more graduates close to home.

Nationally, the percentage of students entering family practice declined slightly from two years ago, according to the study. Medical schools were more likely to have students going into postgraduate family practice training programs if they were publicly funded and had departments of family medicine.

The study’s authors said medical schools are accepting more students to head off a predicted doctor shortage, and that it’s essential that the programs encourage some students to pursue careers in family medicine.

“Simply increasing the number of medical school graduates will result in a physician workforce that will continue to be inappropriately distributed to care for the needs of the nation,� wrote Dr. Perry Pugno of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “An adequate pipeline of future family physicians is essential to achieving the primary care foundation needed in the U.S. health-care system.�
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