SMHS among top five for family medicine physicians

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News Article

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School of Medicine & Health Sciences


GRAND FORKS, N.D.—A study completed by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) noted that the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences was again among the top five contributors to building the nation’s family physician workforce.

This is the 35th national study conducted by the American Academy of Family Physicians that reports retrospectively the percentage of graduates from U.S. Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)-accredited; American Osteopathic Association (AOA)-accredited; and international medical schools who enter Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-accredited family medicine residency programs as first-year residents.

A residency is a period of advanced intensive training for medical school graduates in their chosen medical specialty before independent practice as a physician.

A rank-order list of MD-granting medical schools was created by researchers at the AAFP that was based on the last three years’ average percentage of graduates who became family medicine residents, using the 2015 and prior AAFP census data.

“This annual report is one measure of the effectiveness of medical schools to produce a primary care workforce, a key measure of social responsibility, as measured by their production of graduates entering into family medicine,” said the authors of the AAFP report. “Primary care has been demonstrated to improve healthcare outcomes and reduce health disparities while reducing per capita costs.”

Top schools employ several initiatives that support students who are interested in and most likely to become family physicians. Those initiatives include student outreach, admissions policies that target students from rural and medically underserved areas, clinical rotations that emphasize positive experiences in family medicine, faculty involvement in medical school committees, strong family medicine interest groups, and financial aid packages that help to reduce student debt.

The UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences has several unique programs designed to educate students about the benefits of family medicine. The nationally recognized Rural Opportunities in Medical Education (ROME) program places third-year medical students in several rural communities in North Dakota for a seven-month rotation. In 2010, the UND SMHS signed its first RuralMed Scholar; currently there are 24 recipients in the program. The goal of the RuralMed Scholarship Program is to recruit, educate, and retain physicians who will practice family medicine in rural North Dakota. The program absorbs the tuition costs for all four years of medical school for students who agree to practice family medicine in a rural area of North Dakota for five years. The SMHS, through UND’s Centers for Family Medicine in Bismarck and Minot, has also partnered with West River Health Services in Hettinger and Mercy Medical Center in Williston, respectively, to train physicians in Rural Training Track residency programs, which demonstrate even higher placement of graduates into rural and medically underserved communities. The SMHS also provides funding support for the rural track of the Altru Health System Family Medicine Residency Program.

According to the study, the top five schools and their percentage of graduates entering family medicine are the following:

  • University of Minnesota Medical School—19.0%
  • University of Kansas School of Medicine—17.8%
  • University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences—17.4%
  • University of East Carolina—16.7%
  • University of Washington—16.6%

Since 1981, the UND SMHS has averaged 22.5% of its graduates who enter a family medicine residency, while the national average is 10.9%. In 2015, the UND SMHS led the nation with 20.8% of its graduates choosing a family medicine residency.

“The School works hard to produce the family medicine practitioners needed by the people of North Dakota, and we are pleased that we are in the top five based on this study by the AAFP,” said Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH, UND vice president for health affairs and dean of the UND SMHS. “Credit our success to the faculty of the Department of Family and Community Medicine who have worked hard to develop our nationally recognized family and community medicine program, along with the many family physicians throughout the state who help educate our medical students and residents and demonstrate to them firsthand the joys of family medicine practice.”

“Our success as a department rests on the shoulders of the volunteer, community-based faculty who engage our students and provide them a tremendous experience in family medicine,” Wynne said. “It is this opportunity to witness physicians enjoying their work with patients that makes a lasting impression on students. The department could not do it without their dedication to educating our future physicians.”

“In partnering with our communities, faculty, and volunteers, we can teach students both the competence and the confidence to recognize that family medicine is the right choice for them,” said David F. Schmitz, MD, chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the UND SMHS.

“As the UND SMHS and the Department of Family and Community Medicine continue to strive to serve our students, residents, and patients, we will also be serving the primary care needs of our state. I am honored to be a part of this team. The AAFP national study reflects the importance of our work for our communities and our health.”