Few Pre-Med Students Hope to Go Into Primary Care

By Catherine Groux
Posted February 27, 2013 10:00 AM

Not enough medical students become primary care physicians.
Not enough medical students become primary care physicians.

A new survey by Kaplan Test Prep shows that only 32% of pre-medical students say they plan on becoming primary care physicians after earning their Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree. At the same time, 68% say they hope to become specialists, such as cardiologists, neurologists or anesthesiologists.

This could prove problematic for the U.S. healthcare system, which will be in dire need of more primary care physicians as the baby boomer generation ages. Currently, the nation is lacking a necessary 9,000 primary care physicians, and experts predict this shortage will only worsen in the next 15 years, The New York Times reports.

The Kaplan survey found that of those pre-med students who decide to become specialists instead of primary care physicians, only 2% said their decision was based on salary, despite the fact that specialists are known to make significantly higher salaries than primary care physicians. However, past research has shown that throughout medical school, salary does, indeed, become an important factor in deterring students from a primary care career.

A 2012 study by researchers from North Carolina State University, East Carolina University and Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that students who valued earning a high salary or anticipated having a lot of student debt were significantly more likely to enter a medical specialty, even if they went to medical school with the intention of becoming a primary care physician.

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