The diverse functions of role models across primary care specialties

Fam Med. 2006 Apr;38(4):244-51.


Background and objectives: This study investigated the relationship of role models to primary care specialty and gathered information on the attributes and functions of role models.

Methods: A questionnaire on medical school experiences and attitudes was administered to primary care graduates from 24 US medical schools.

Results: Questionnaires were completed by 1,457 physicians. Sixty-three percent of primary care respondents had a role model. Having a role model was significantly related to current specialty and ethnicity. Respondents most valued their role models' patient relationships. For family medicine and internal medicine graduates, having a role model was related to more contact and more-positive views of faculty in their specialty. Those with a role model reported that primary care was encouraged at their medical school and were more satisfied with their specialty choice.

Conclusions: Role models may be more important to students who are not well represented among medical school faculty, namely women, underrepresented ethnic minorities, and those interested in family medicine. For family medicine graduates, role models function to moderate negative stereotypes. Role models may also make explicit the values of physicians in that specialty, making students more informed when choosing a specialty and as a consequence more satisfied with the decision.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arizona
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine*
  • Mentors*
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Professional Role*
  • Specialization*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires