Purpose: Professional and governmental organizations recommend an ideal US physician workforce composed of at least 40 % primary care physicians. They also support primary care residencies to promote careers in primary care. Our study examines the relationship between graduation from a primary care or categorical internal medicine residency program and subsequent career choice.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional electronic survey of a cohort of internal medicine residency alumni who graduated between 2001 and 2010 from a large academic center. Our primary predictor was graduation from a primary care versus a categorical internal medicine program and our primary outcome is current career role. We performed chi-square analysis comparing responses of primary care and categorical residents.
Results: We contacted 481 out of 513 alumni, of whom 322 responded (67 %). We compared 106 responses from primary care alumni to 169 responses from categorical alumni. Fifty-four percent of primary care alumni agreed that the majority of their current clinical work is in outpatient primary care vs. 20 % of categorical alumni (p < 0.001). While 92.5 % of primary-care alumni were interested in a primary care career prior to residency, only 63 % remained interested after residency. Thirty of the 34 primary care alumni (88 %) who lost interest in a primary care career during residency agreed that their ambulatory experience during residency influenced their subsequent career choice.
Conclusions: A higher percentage of primary care alumni practice outpatient primary care as compared to categorical alumni. Some alumni lost interest in primary care during residency. The outpatient clinic experience may impact interest in primary care.