Introduction: The present study was designed to determine if there was a difference in rural background and rural medical education experience between practising rural physicians and practising urban physicians in Ontario.
Method: A cross-sectional survey was mailed to 507 strictly defined rural family physicians and 505 urban family physicians practising in Ontario. The main outcome measures were population of the community while growing up, rural medical education and medical school attended.
Results: Responses of 264 rural physicians were compared with 179 urban physician responses. The groups were comparable in years of practice. Rural physicians were significantly more likely to have grown up in a rural community (34.9% v. 14.6%), to have had clinical training in a rural setting during medical school (55.4% v. 35.2%) and to have had clinical training in a rural setting of 8 weeks or more during postgraduate residency training (38.8% v. 20.2%). During residency training, longer duration of rural placements (more than 6 months) was significantly associated with practice in a rural area (15.5% of rural physicians, 1.7% of urban physicians). After controlling for other predictors, each of the following were independent variables: growing up in a community of less than 10 000 people (odds ratio [OR] 3.31), having had some undergraduate rural clinical training (OR 2.46), having had postgraduate rural training of 8 weeks or more (OR 2.17), attending a Canadian medical school outside Ontario (OR 3.80) and being male (OR 2.57).
Conclusion: Practising rural physicians compared with urban physicians were significantly more likely to have come from a rural background, to have had an undergraduate rural medical education, to have had postgraduate rural training, to have graduated from a Canadian medical school outside Ontario, and to be male. Each of these had an independent effect on practice location.