Purpose: Despite continued federal and state efforts to increase the number of physicians in rural areas, disparities between the supply of rural and urban physicians persist. The authors examined the training of the rural physician workforce in the United States.
Method: Using a national cross-sectional analysis of the 2005 American Medical Association and American Osteopathic Association Masterfile physician data, the authors examined a 10-year cohort of clinically active MD and DO physicians who graduated from medical school between 1988 and 1997.
Results: Eleven percent (20,037) of the physician cohort were currently practicing in a rural location in 2005. Eighteen percent (2,045) of osteopathic medical school graduates were currently practicing in a rural location. Twenty-three percent (6,282) of family physician graduates practiced in rural areas. Women continue to be less likely than men to practice in rural areas, although the gap is narrowing. Rural residency trainees were over three times more likely to practice in rural areas (RR = 3.4, P < .001).
Conclusions: The proportion and number of physicians entering rural practice has remained stable compared with earlier analyses. However, recent trends such as declining primary care interest are not yet reflected in these data and may portend worsening shortages of rural physicians.