Background: This report addresses the long-term career paths and retrospective impressions of a cohort of family physicians who served in rural National Health Service Corps (NHSC) sites in return for having received medical school scholarships during the early 1980s.
Methods: We surveyed all physicians who graduated from medical school between 1980 and 1983, received NHSC scholarships, completed family medicine residencies, and served in rural areas. Two hundred fifty-eight physicians responded to our survey with complete information, 76 percent of the members of the cohort who could be located and met the study criteria.
Results: In 1994 one quarter of the respondents were still practicing in the county to which they had been assigned by the NHSC, an average of 6.1 years after the end of their obligation. Another 27 percent were still in rural practice. Of the entire group, less than 40 percent were in traditional urban private or managed care settings.
Conclusions: Although only one quarter of NHSC assignees remain long term in their original assignment counties, they provide a large (and growing) amount of nonobligated service to those areas. Of those who leave, many remain in rural practice or work in community-oriented urban practices.