Friday, September 28, 2012

Its your turn

We're looking for other folks to join the conversation by writing a guest blog or posting comments. If you are interested in writing a guest blog or being a regular contributor, contact us.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Medical Student Concerns

There are a lot of issues on the minds of medical students. What will their careers be like after they graduate? Will they be a good physician? How will they be able to cover their mounting educational debts? These, and other statements, were shared in a recent national survey.

In the August study, 1015 students nationwide were surveyed about their concerns and a heavy weight they seemed to be bearing was the increasing debt they were under in order to become educated. Among allopathic and osteopathic students, they could expect to repay between $162,000 and $206,000 upon graduation. The cost was a concern among 45% of respondents, with the amount of information that students were expected to learn coming in second at 22%. And the worries don't end upon graduation. Looking forward, 53% were concerned about their ability to be a good doctor. This is up from 29% in 2007.

Also of concern was the lack of education in certain areas. The need for PCPs is huge, especially with the widening physician gap, but those who plan to go into primary care might not be well-equipped to run their own practice. Students must be able to balance medicine with running a business, and all the legalities that encompasses.

“When it comes to coding, billing, just hospital business, I am completely in the dark about it. I wish my school had more of the business side of it.” ~ Dan Van Riper, Fourth-Year Medical Student (Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine)

It's important that students have their concerns addressed and, if possible, the gaps in their training filled appropriately. By preparing them for the career ahead, and making the costs less restrictive, the future of medicine can be better able to cover the needs of an ever-changing population.

Being a good physician29%53%
Balancing work and personal life53%47%
Paying off student loans17%30%
Facing medical liability lawsuits/insurance premiums15%16%
Handling administrative tasks15%16%
Source: “7th Annual Future Physicians of American Survey,” Epocrates, Sept. 13 (

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lack Of Money Deterring Potential PCPs

The cost of medical school is constantly mounting for students across the country. In order to repay their debts, students are often drawn to high-paying specialties. This forced financial choice also puts the lower-paying positions in danger, especially the job of primary care physician. In a time when PCPs are being more necessary, this shying away from the career is having long-term negative consequences. The New York Times puts the gap of PCPs at around 45,000. Why such a large number? Because of the financial strain the future generation of physicians are under.

Between 1993 and 2012, 25000 doctoral students were surveyed about their debts. They study found that medical students who were indebted to loans for $104,000 would shy away from primary care and instead go for higher-paying specialties, where their annual earnings could be around $358,000. It was only when the debt was lowered to $94,000 that students considered the PCP field, expecting an annual salary around $202,947.

"We found that students who placed a premium on high income and students who anticipated having a lot of student debt were significantly more likely to pursue a high-paying medical specialty rather than become primary care physicians. This held true even for students who entered medical school with the goal of becoming primary care physicians - they often switched to high-paying specialties before graduating."  ~Dr. Lori Foster Thompson

How can this problem be addressed and counteracted? Well, one answer is to make salaries comparable, but this does not seem like a realistic solution. Perhaps instead the value of primary care should be emphasized and the non-monetary benefits of the job should be stressed. PCPs get something more than just a paycheck when they connect with patients, becoming the first line of care for the population, but are those benefits enough to outweigh the pay gap? That is a personal decision that each physician has to make.