Purpose: To determine the long-term retention of rural family physicians graduating from the Physician Shortage Area Program (PSAP) of Jefferson Medical College.
Method: Of the 1,937 Jefferson graduates from the classes of 1978-1986, the authors identified those practicing rural family medicine when their practice location was first determined. The number and percent of PSAP and non-PSAP graduates practicing family medicine in the same rural area in 2002 were then identified, and compared to the number of those graduates practicing rural family medicine when they were first located in practice 11-16 years earlier.
Results: After 11-16 years, 68% (26/38) of the PSAP graduates were still practicing family medicine in the same rural area, compared with 46% (25/54) of their non-PSAP peers (p = .03). Survival analysis showed that PSAP graduates practice family medicine in the same rural locality longer than non-PSAP graduates (p = .04).
Conclusions: These results are the first to show long-term rural primary care retention that is longer than the median duration. This outcome combined with previously published outcomes show that the PSAP represents the only program that has resulted in multifold increases in both recruitment (eight-fold) and long-term retention (at least 11-16 years). In light of recent national recommendations to increase the total enrollment in medical schools, allocating some of this growth to developing and expanding programs similar to the PSAP would make a substantial and long lasting impact on the rural physician workforce.