Background: Although General Practice (GP) was recognized as a medical specialty in Greece in 1986, the number of GPs is insufficient to cover needs and only few medical graduates choose GP as a career option. In the present study we investigated the profile of medical students in terms of their decisions regarding specialization and the possible association of career choices different from GP with the status of undergraduate training regarding GP.
Methods: The sample consisted of final year students in the Medical School of the University of Athens, Greece. Students filled in a self-reported questionnaire focusing on medical specialization, and GP in particular.
Results: Response rate was 82.5% with 1021 questionnaires collected, out of 1237 eligible medical students. Only 44 out of the 1021 (4.3%) respondents stated that GP is -or could be- among their choices for specialty. The most popular medical specialty was General Surgery (10.9%), followed by Cardiology (9.6%), Endocrinology (8.7%) and Obstetrics-Gynaecology (8.3%). The most common criterion for choosing GP was the guaranteed employment on completion of the residency (54.6%) while a 56.6% of total respondents were positive to the introduction of GP/FM as a curriculum course during University studies.
Conclusion: Despite the great needs, GP specialty is currently not a career option among undergraduate students of the greater Medical University in Greece and is still held in low esteem. A university department responsible for undergraduate teaching, promotion and research in GP (where not available) is essential; the status of undergraduate training in general practice/family medicine seems to be one of the most important factors that influence physician career choices regarding primary care specialties.