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Tackling the primary care physician shortage

Smiling female doctor examining senior patient in hospital
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The Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortage of up to 48,000 primary care physicians by 2034.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) projects a shortage of up to 48,000 primary care physicians by 2034.

This hour on Where We Live, we take a deep dive into why primary care is the barometer of the healthcare system, and how the practice landscape — including hospital acquisitions of physician practices, low reimbursements to primary care physicians, and the proliferation of urgent care centers — is affecting doctors and patients.

An AAMC survey found that prior to the pandemic in 2019, 35 percent of respondents said they or someone they knew had trouble finding a doctor in the past year or two. That’s a 10-point increase from when the question was asked in 2015.

We hear from the author of a recently published book, Searching for the Family Doctor: Primary Care on the Brink, on what’s driving the shortage.

Also, enrollments at primary care residency programs at medical schools in Connecticut have at best held steady.

The Quinnipiac School of Medicine had 39 students in both 2020 and 2021 who chose to specialize in primary care – that number rose by one student this year.

At UConn, between 40-to-50 percent of graduates from the School of Medicine typically enter primary care residencies. In 2022, that number dropped to 26 percent. UConn offers loans at one percent interest rate, as long as graduating doctors practice in primary care in Connecticut – family medicine, internal medicine, general pediatrics, or geriatrics.

The Quinnipiac School of Medicine had 39 students in both 2020 and 2021 who chose to specialize in primary care – that number rose by one student this year. Quinnipiac offers an annual fellowship to one student who enrolls at its primary care residency program.

Enrollments at the primary care residency program have held steady at Yale at around 18 students. We hear from the program director of the Primary Care Internal Medicine Residency at the Yale School of Medicine on its ongoing efforts to attract graduates to primary care.

GUESTS:

Timothy Hoff: Author of Searching for the Family Doctor: Primary Care on the Brink.

Dr. John Moriarty: Director, Primary Care Internal Medicine Residency Training Program, Yale School of Medicine.

Dr. Eva Zimmerman: Primary care physician, Internal Medicine Associates of Westport. Graduated from the Yale School of Medicine’s primary care residency program in June, 2022.

Dr. Sheila Eghbali: Graduated from Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in May of 2022, and received the Primary Care Fellowship.

Sujata Srinivasan hosted and produced this show, with help from talk show intern Mira Raju. Special thanks to Catie Talarski. 

Where We Live is available as a podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe and never miss an episode!

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Sujata Srinivasan is a Senior Producer for 'Where We Live,' the flagship news-based, call-in talk show from Connecticut Public Radio, featuring deep dives at the intersection of data-driven narrative and investigative long-form journalism. She's also an editor for the Connecticut Public newsroom.
Catie Talarski is Senior Director of Storytelling and Radio Programming at Connecticut Public.