Medical School Characteristics, Policies, and Practices That Support Primary Care Specialty Choice: A Scoping Review of 5 Decades of Research

Julie P. Phillips, Andrea L. Wendling, Jacob Prunuske, Molly E. Polverento, Christy J.W. Ledford, Deborah R. Erlich, Esther L. Guard, Amanda Kost, Iris Kovar-Gough, Amy L. Lee, Winston Liaw, Bich May Nguyen, Morgan A. Pratte, Meghan F. Raleigh, Tomoko Sairenji, Dean A. Seehusen, Shelby Walker, Virginia Young, Christopher P. Morley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: The United States, like many other nations, faces a chronic shortage of primary care physicians. The purpose of this scoping review was to synthesize literature describing evidence-based institutional practices and interventions that support medical students’ choices of primary care specialties, published in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. METHODS: We surveyed peer-reviewed, published research. An experienced medical librarian conducted searches of multiple databases. Articles were selected for inclusion based on explicit criteria. We charted articles by topic, methodology, year of publication, journal, country of origin, and presence or absence of funding. We then scored included articles for quality. Finally, we defined and described six common stages of development of institutional interventions. RESULTS: We reviewed 8,083 articles and identified 199 articles meeting inclusion criteria and 41 related articles. As a group, studies were of low quality, but improved over time. Most were quantitative studies conducted in the United States. Many studies utilized one of four common methodologic approaches: retrospective surveys, studies of programs or curricula, large-scale multi-institution comparisons, and single-institution exemplars. Most studies developed groundwork or examined effectiveness or impact, with few studies of planning or piloting. Few studies examined state or regional workforce outcomes. CONCLUSIONS: Research examining medical school interventions and institutional practices to support primary care specialty choice would benefit from stronger theoretical grounding, greater investment in planning and piloting, consistent use of language, more qualitative methods, and innovative approaches. Robust funding mechanisms are needed to advance these goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)542-554
Number of pages13
JournalFamily medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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