Programs To Train More Family Doctors Will Complement Health Reform

Major Obamacare provisions aim to lower national health care costs by encouraging primary care and healthy living habits. The hope is that by having patients take advantage of preventative care provisions and communicating with their practitioners, Americans will live healthier lifestyles that do not require long-term, expensive care.

But Obamacare’s funding for community health clinics and prevention measures is not enough to realize the dream of a healthier America. The medical profession itself must change the way it does business, beginning with an increased focus on medical school training for family care and general practitioners.

According to a Kaiser Health News piece, elite schools tend to focus on producing highly-skilled and highly-specialized doctors at the expense of much-needed family doctors. New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine has responded to this growing need by starting a new Department of Family Medicine:

Students like Demetri Blanas, 26, who were interested in becoming family doctors found little support. For the first three years of school, his training focused almost exclusively on taking care of extremely ill patients in the hospital.

“I want to spend my career keeping people healthy rather than trying to bring them back from a very serious illness,” says Blanas. “I think it is what society needs right now, and that is important to me.”

Blanas says many of his professors discouraged him from going into primary care, telling him it was too much work, the pay was lousy, the job was boring, and it simply wasn’t as intellectually rigorous as being a specialist. […] Yet he remained committed to pursuing family medicine. […]

Dr. Dennis Charney, dean of the medical school, says that the new department represents a fundamental change in Mount Sinai’s mission. “It’s a big deal for our institution. We want to be one of the leading medical schools that educates the next generation of primary care doctors,” he says. And it comes not just because of the health overhaul law, but also because there is a growing interest among students in primary care, he added.

The fundamental role that primary care and family doctors will play in transitioning America from a system of “sick care” to “health care” is undeniable. But the country’s top schools must embrace the urgency of that reality by following Mount Sinai’s example, expanding their general and primary care departments, and encouraging talented young doctors like Blanas to devote their skills to non-specialized practices.