Rekindling student interest in generalist careers

Ann Intern Med. 2005 Apr 19;142(8):715-24. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-142-8-200504190-00040.


Despite changes in the structure of the U.S. health care system, patients continue to need and seek out generalist physicians. However, the proportion of U.S. graduates of medical schools who choose to enter generalist residency training decreased from 50% in 1998 to less than 40% in the 2004 match. Unless we act now to reverse this trend, we may face a shortage of primary care physicians to care for the complex medical needs of an aging population. This article reviews the history of and trends in career choice and proposes 4 evidence-based recommendations to rekindle student interest in generalist careers: 1) We must improve satisfaction and enthusiasm among generalist physician role models. 2) Schools of medicine should redouble their efforts to produce primary care physicians. 3) We must facilitate the pathway from medical school to generalist residency. 4) The U.S. government should increase funding for primary care research and research training. In the absence of a major overhaul of economic incentives in favor of generalist careers, we will need to work at these multiple levels to restore balance to the generalist physician workforce and align with the desires and expectations of patients for continuing healing relationships with generalist physicians.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / economics
  • Career Choice*
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Family Practice* / economics
  • Family Practice* / trends
  • Internship and Residency / organization & administration
  • Primary Health Care / economics
  • Primary Health Care / trends
  • Research Support as Topic
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • United States