Since 2009 when I entered medical school, there’s been a sea change. When I began my program, it seemed the highest levels of respect and admiration were directed towards those students accepted to highly specialized and highly competitive residencies. Medical students often informally referred to a group of them as the “R.O.A.D.” residencies, standing for Radiology, Ophthalmology, Anesthesia, and Dermatology. Each of these specialties are essential, complex, and noble professions, but they are also true specialties. Each focuses on a niche part of the body or field of medicine. It also doesn’t escape medical students that their average salaries are often higher and average hours worked often lower, in comparison to other fields.
In 2003, 19 students from Stanford went into R.O.A.D. residencies and 24 students went into internal medicine, family medicine, or pediatrics (residencies associated with, but not exclusive to, primary care). Ten years later in 2013, 15 of my colleagues headed to the former while the number of students matriculating into the latter shot up to 35, an increase of nearly 50%.
Though variation exists year-to-year, a trend is hard to deny. Interest in the internal medicine student group has blossomed. Students have started groups like Primary Care Progress and seminars such as The Future of Primary Care fill up lecture halls while many courses struggle to entice medical students out from their reclusive study hideouts. Nationally, a founder of Doctors for America was just confirmed as Surgeon General.
Who is behind this primary care renaissance, and why now? Find out in Part 2…