The distribution of rural female generalist physicians in the United States

J Rural Health. 2000 Spring;16(2):111-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-0361.2000.tb00444.x.


Female physicians are underrepresented in rural areas. What impact might the increasing proportion of women in medicine have on the rural physician shortage? To begin addressing this question, we present data describing the geographic distribution of female physicians in the United States. We examine the geographic distribution of all active U.S. allopathic physicians recorded in the October 1996 update of the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile. Percentages and numbers of female physicians by professional activity, specialty type, and geographic location are reported. Findings reveal there were fewer than 7,000 female allopathic physicians practicing in rural America in 1996. The proportion of generalist female physicians who practice in rural settings was significantly lower than the proportion who practice in urban locations. Although members of the most recent 10-year medical school graduation cohort of female generalist physicians were slightly more likely to practice in rural areas than members of earlier cohorts, female physicians remained significantly underrepresented in rural areas. States varied dramatically in rural female generalist underrepresentation. Should female generalists continue to be underrepresented in rural locations, the rural physician shortage will not be resolved quickly. Effective strategies to improve rural female physician placement and retention need to be identified and implemented to improve rural access to physician care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • American Medical Association
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Physicians, Family / supply & distribution*
  • Physicians, Women / supply & distribution*
  • Professional Practice Location / statistics & numerical data
  • Rural Health Services*
  • United States
  • Workforce