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The Supply of Primary Care Physicians

Steven R. Towner, MD
JAMA. 1991;266(18):2561-2562. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03470180061032.
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To the Editor.  —Recently, much has been written about the paucity of young physicians entering primary care specialties. A recent article by Politzer et al1 indicated that the primary emphasis for increasing physician supply ought to be at the level of medical education training. This analysis completely missed the main reason why more physicians have not entered primary care specialties. The reason is life-style.Three primary life-style factors that discourage more physicians from entering primary care include the following: (1) being on call; (2) finances; and (3) spouses. To elaborate, the on-call schedule of primary care physicians is, in most circumstances, far more rigorous than that for specialists. The type of work that is done on call is often performed for little financial reward. Second, the finances of primary care physicians are such that most can prolong their medical education from 8 to 9 or 10 years, counting medical


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