Teaching Health Centers Help Resolve Primary Care Physician Shortage in Underserved Areas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Contact:
Leslie Champlin
Senior Public Relations Strategist
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224
lchampli@aafp.org 

Research Confirms that Teaching Health Centers Help Resolve Primary Care Physician Shortage in Underserved Areas


WASHINGTON, DC — Teaching Health Centers work. Given permanent and appropriate funding, they could make a significant dent in the maldistribution and shortage of primary care physicians.

That’s the conclusion in research by Zachary Levin, former economist at the Robert Graham Center and current doctoral student at the University of Minnesota, and his colleagues at the Robert Graham Center, in a policy brief, “Practice Intentions of Family Physicians Trained in Teaching Health Centers: The Value of Community-Based Training(www.jabfm.org).” The study was published recently in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

Authorized by the Affordable Care Act, the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program has grown from 11 programs and 63 residents in 2011 to 57 programs training more than 700 residents. Research has consistently demonstrated that the program is succeeding at its mission: to increase the number of primary care physicians caring for patients in underserved areas. Data show more than 90 percent of graduates indicate they intend to work in primary care and more than three out of four in underserved communities(publichealth.gwu.edu).

Levin and his colleagues reviewed data from a 2014-2016 questionnaire required of all graduating family medicine residents when they register for the American Board of Family Medicine certification examination. Their results showed graduates from teaching health centers were twice as likely to report intending to practice in a safety net health clinic as their counterparts who did not train in a THC.

Levin’s study confirms earlier studies that showed graduates of teaching health centers were more likely to practice in safety net clinics. In “Graduates of Teaching Health Center Programs Are More Likely to Practice in the Primary Care Safety Net,” researchers also found that up to twice as many teaching health center graduates went on to practice in underserved settings as did their counterparts who trained in hospital-based programs. Another study, “Do Residents Who Train in Safety Net Settings Return for Practice?(www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)” showed that residents who train in safety net clinics are more likely to return to those settings to continue their careers. By comparison, only 2 percent of all residents practice in these clinics.

Low-income Americans often struggle to gain access to health care. Maldistribution of health professionals has threatened access to needed care among both rural and urban Americans. However, research into the outcomes of teaching health center residency training continue to show that the program is producing a group of family physicians “likely to increase access to primary care services for vulnerable communities,” Levin writes.

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About the Robert Graham Center

The Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care works to improve individual and population health by enhancing the delivery of primary care. The Center staff generates and analyzes evidence that brings a family medicine and primary care perspective to health policy deliberations at local, state, and national levels.

Founded in 1999, the Robert Graham Center is an independent research unit affiliated with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The information and opinions contained in research from the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the AAFP.