How to address the coming shortfall of primary care doctors

About 20,000 students recently graduated from U.S. medical schools. Now, they’re beginning the next chapter of their training, as residents.

Yet less than 7,000 will be pursuing careers in primary care.

America will be short up to 43,100 primary care physicians by 2030, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.  

Medical schools have a responsibility to help fix this shortfall.

They can do so by making primary care more alluring to students.

Primary care physicians are our healthcare system’s first line of defense.

The shortage of primary care doctors is partially due to concerns over money and status.

The shortage also occurs because U.S. medical school’s faculty are mainly specialists.

Americans make 923 million trips to physician offices every year — and only 130 million to emergency departments.

More than half of office visits are to primary care physicians.  

So medical students rarely gain enough experience in primary care settings to decide if it’s the right career path for them.

Schools could subsidize tuition for students who commit to primary care careers.

Medical schools must make careers in primary care exciting and affordable for a new generation of physicians.

G. Richard Olds, M.D., is President of St. George’s University. He was founding dean of UC Riverside’s medical school.