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AZ: Graduates Fill Family Medicine Openings

October 22, 2008

by Karen Mattox

Graduates from the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine (AZCOM) at Midwestern University in Glendale comprise the highest percentage of all new family practice residents and practicing family physicians, according to a recent article in the September Family Medicine Journal.

AZCOM saw 32.8% (45 students) of its graduates enter family medicine residencies in 2007, compared to 8.3% nationwide for all U.S. allopathic (M.D.) medical schools and 16.4% nationwide for U.S. osteopathic medical schools. In addition, AZCOM graduates entered other primary care residencies (including pediatrics, internal medicine, and OB/GYN) in larger numbers (63.5%) than other medical graduates.

Lori Kemper, D.O., AZCOM Dean, believes that the osteopathic philosophy and a caring, patient-centered focus at MWU contribute to the increased interest in family medicine. "The osteopathic philosophy is more holistic and family-oriented, looking at the patient's mind, body, spirit, and family circumstances as part of the whole being," she says. "In addition, the inter-professional, family-oriented approach at Midwestern University increases collaborative interactions among students in the various colleges, improving the acceptance of family medicine."

Dr. Kemper currently practices medicine at the Midwestern University Clinic along with MWU/AZCOM alumni, modeling family practice for the students. "AZCOM students' first clinical interactions are with family practitioners," she notes. "That interaction, plus the fact that AZCOM has a slightly more mature population of students, likely also increases student interest in family practice as a specialty."

According to the Family Medicine report, countries with primary care as the basis of the health care system have higher-quality, lower-cost health outcomes for the population overall. With a predicted future physician shortage, it is crucial for medical schools to graduate doctors interested in serving their communities in family practice or other primary care specialties. \In Arizona, where the physician to population ration is lower than the U.S. average (207/100,000 compared to 283/100,000 nationwide), it is even more critical, especially in rural areas.

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Karen Mattox