Volunteer physician faculty and the changing face of medicine

West J Med. 2001 Apr;174(4):242-6. doi: 10.1136/ewjm.174.4.242.


Objective: To determine the extent to which current changes in the American health care system might adversely effect the willingness of community physicians to volunteer to teach medical students.

Design: Surveys in the form of 2 mailings were sent to 466 physicians in the Pacific Northwest who volunteer to teach first- and second-year medical students. The physicians were categorized into medical specialty or primary care, urban or rural location, and type of practice.

Participants: A total of 333 physicians completed the surveys on which responses were analyzed.

Results: Respondents noted that clinical and nonclinical workloads had increased (n=211 [63%] and n=276 [83%], respectively) in the past 5 years. One hundred eighty-six respondents (56%) said that they had less time for teaching medical students. Forty-five physicians (14%) indicated that they had discontinued their volunteer teaching activities altogether. During the past 5 years, solo practitioners had the lowest dropout rate (7% [4/57]), and physicians at health maintenance organizations had the highest (23% [7/30]). Primary care physicians were more likely to indicate that they had decreased time for each patient encounter (P=0.006).

Conclusions: Increasing nonclinical workload demands and higher patient loads are a substantial threat to the recruitment and retention of volunteer faculty. In particular, the involvement of urban, HMO, and primary care physicians may decrease disproportionately in the future.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Data Collection
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Faculty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Health Care Reform
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician's Role*
  • Probability
  • Schools, Medical / economics
  • Schools, Medical / trends
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Volunteers / statistics & numerical data*