Family Medicine Graduate Proximity to Their Site of Training: Policy Options for Improving the Distribution of Primary Care Access

Authors: Ernest Blake Fagan, MD; Claire Gibbons, PhD; Sean C. Finnegan, MS; Stephen Petterson, PhD; Lars E. Peterson, MD, PhD; Robert L. Phillips Jr, MD, MSPH; Andrew W. Bazemore, MD, MPH

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: The US Graduate Medical Education (GME) system is failing to produce primary care physicians in sufficient quantity or in locations where they are most needed. Decentralization of GME training has been suggested by several federal advisory boards as a means of reversing primary care maldistribution, but supporting evidence is in need of updating. We assessed the geographic relationship between family medicine GME training sites and graduate practice location.

METHODS: Using the 2012 American Medical Association Masterfile and American Academy of Family Physicians membership file, we obtained the percentage of family physicians in direct patient care located within 5, 25, 75, and 100 miles and within the state of their family medicine residency program (FMRP). We also analyzed the effect of time on family physician distance from training site.

RESULTS: More than half of family physicians practice within 100 miles of their FMRP (55%) and within the same state (57%). State retention varies from 15% to 75%; the District of Columbia only retains 15% of family physician graduates, while Texas and California retain 75%. A higher percentage of recent graduates stay within 100 miles of their FMRP (63%), but this relationship degrades over time to about 51%.

CONCLUSIONS: The majority of practicing family physicians remained proximal to their GME training site and within state. This suggests that decentralized training may be a part of the solution to uneven distribution among primary care physicians. State and federal policy-makers should prioritize funding training in or near areas with poor access to primary care services. (Fam Med 2015;47(2):124-30.)

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