Institutional Characteristics Influencing Medical Student Selection of Primary Care Careers: A Narrative Review and Synthesis

Dean A. Seehusen, Meghan F. Raleigh, Julie P. Phillips, Jacob Prunuske, Christopher P. Morley, Molly E. Polverento, Iris Kovar-Gough, Andrea L. Wendling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: There is an ongoing shortage of primary care physicians in the United States. Medical schools are under pressure to address this threat to the nation’s health by producing more primary care grad-uates, including family physicians. Our objective was to identify institutional characteristics associated with more medical students choosing primary care. METHODS: We conducted a systematic literature review with narrative synthesis to identify medical school characteristics associated with increased numbers or proportions of primary care graduates. We included peer-reviewed, published research from the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The existing literature on characteristics, including institutional geography, funding and governance, mission, and research emphasis, was analyzed and synthesized into summary statements. RESULTS: Ensuring a strong standing of the specialty of family medicine and creating an atmosphere of acceptance of the pursuit of primary care as a career are likely to increase an institution’s percentage of medical students entering primary care. Training on regional campuses or providing primary care experiences in rural settings also correlates with a larger percentage of graduates entering primary care. A research-intensive culture is inversely correlated with primary care physician production among private, but not public, institu-tions. The literature on institutional financial incentives is not of high enough quality to make a firm statement about influence on specialty choice. CONCLUSIONS: To produce more primary care providers, medical schools must create an environment where primary care is supported as a career choice. Medical schools should also consider educational models that incorporate regional campuses or rural educational settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)522-530
Number of pages9
JournalFamily medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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