The bias against primary care is featured in this month’s The Atlantic with a thoughtful essay penned by medical student Mara Gordon, titled, “Why I am Becoming a Primary Care Doctor.” Gordon describes how few of her medical school classmates at the University of Pennsylvania are following her into the primary care field, opting instead for more lucrative specialty practices. “At medical schools, general medicine is often considered unchallenging and quaint, even though primary care doctors are what our nation needs most from its medical schools.” Gordon cites predictions by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that there could be a primary care shortage as great as 20,000 doctors by the year 2020.
Gordon makes her most powerful case in confronting head-on the conventional — and inaccurate — prejudices about primary care:
“But there’s something deeper at play, a widespread and nagging perception that primary care doctors just aren’t as smart as their specialist counterparts. A 2013 essay in the Annals of Internal Medicine asked the question most of my colleagues are too polite to verbalize: If you’re smart enough to do well in medical school, why would you go into primary care?”
Gordon offers up a powerful counterpoint. “I’m eager to work across disciplines to help keep patients healthy, rather than reacting when they get sick,” she writes. “I want to get to know my patients over time. There will be painfully rushed office visits in my future. There will be red tape and frustrations. But like many of my smart peers headed into this field, I also feel motivated by the challenges of designing new systems that meet the needs of patients, not the needs of insurance companies.”
With those words in mind consider that primary care will be the focus of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) next month. The program will celebrate its fourth annual Corps Community Day (CCD) on Thursday, October 9, 2014. NHSC sites, clinicians, Ambassadors, alumni, and partners (including many health professions schools) across the nation will host activities and events to raise awareness about the vital role of the primary care workforce and highlight the impact the NHSC has in boosting access to primary care in rural and underserved communities.
Corps Community Day events will be held during National Primary Care Week, October 6-10, and throughout the month of October. This year’s Corps Community Day theme is “Partnering to Make Primary Care Career Choices Possible,” and the Corps is working to secure activities/events across the U.S. and its territories. If your health center has NHSC scholars, loan repayors, and/or alums and would like assistance with a CCD event, contact: Tracy McClintock, MBA, Senior Management Analyst at the Bureau of Health Workforce, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).