Modifying the culture of medical education: the first three years of the RWJ Generalist Physician Initiative

Acad Med. 1997 Sep;72(9):745-53. doi: 10.1097/00001888-199709000-00007.


The Generalist Physician Initiative (GPI) was created by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help medical schools increase the number of predoctoral and residency graduates entering generalist careers. The underlying assumption of the GPI is that more medical graduates will become generalists if schools select candidates whose personal characteristics are compatible with generalist careers and if schools provide for them an educational environment that values generalist careers in the same manner it has valued specialist careers. In essence, the GPI is helping schools modify the culture in which medical education occurs so that they may increase their production of generalists. Fourteen grants for six years of support were made to 16 U.S. medical schools in 1994. These schools are developing institution-wide efforts that span the continuum from the recruitment and selection of students through their medical school and residency education to their entry into practice, and include support of the practice. Most schools have developed external partners (e.g., state legislatures, managed care organizations, area health education centers) to assist in achieving their goals. The project is now (1997) at its halfway mark. This article describes the conceptual bases for the program (e.g., changes in admission criteria to favor applicants oriented to generalism), identifies common approaches to intervention chosen by the participating schools (e.g., establishing longitudinal, generalist-oriented clinical experiences throughout the four years of medical school), and explores issues being faced by the schools as they implement change (e.g., difficulties in decentralizing clinical education to include community physicians as teachers and role models).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / organization & administration*
  • Family Practice / education*
  • Foundations*
  • Humans
  • Mentors
  • Organizational Culture
  • Organizational Innovation
  • School Admission Criteria*
  • Workforce