UND receives top ranking by American Academy of Family Physicians

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News Article

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School of Medicine & Health Sciences


GRAND FORKS, N.D.— The University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences received the American Academy of Family Physicians Top 10 Award for UND's consistent contributions to building the family physician workforce. The award, presented during the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Annual Spring Conference, marks the fourth consecutive year the school has received the honor.

Each year during the conference, the AAFP presents its Family Medicine Top 10 Awards to honor medical schools that — during a consecutive three-year period — graduated the greatest percentage of students who chose first-year family medicine residency positions.

Accepting the award for the UND SMHS was Kamille Sherman, MD, assistant professor of family and community medicine. "As someone new to academic medicine, I am amazed, when discussing medical education with my peers at national meetings, at how many things they say the school does well," Sherman said.

"Dr. Roger Schauer, clerkship director for over 20 years at the school, has implemented many educational tools that are respected and still being integrated at other medical schools across the country," she said. "Our outstanding and dedicated community physician preceptors are an asset not commonly found across the country. North Dakota's citizens are supportive of medical education. In return, it is an honor that this school is recognized for our commitment to encouraging and promoting family medicine among our students. This is also a testament to our students. Their humanism and desire to treat people and families as a whole will serve society for generations to come."

At a time when the United States is facing a shortage of primary care physicians, filling the family physician workforce pipeline is vital to the health of Americans, according to AAFP President Reid Blackwelder, MD.

"For the past five years, we have seen growth in student interest in family medicine," Blackwelder said. "Much of the credit for that increase goes to the medical schools that have actively supported family medicine as the comprehensive, challenging and professionally fulfilling specialty that it is. These 10 schools have demonstrated their consistent commitment to meeting the nation's need for family physicians, and I commend them, their leadership and their faculty for helping ensure that Americans have access to the care they need."

The importance of family physicians also has escalated as the complexity of primary care has intensified. In addition to providing preventive and first-encounter care, family physicians diagnose and treat patients with conditions ranging from a sore throat to multiple, complex conditions such as diabetes combined with congestive heart failure. Research has shown family physicians are the usual source of care for more than six in 10 patients with anxiety, depression or diabetes; six in 10 patients with cancer, and nearly six in 10 patients with heart disease. Most recently, the authors of "Patients with High-Cost Chronic Conditions Rely Heavily on Primary Care Physicians" in the January-February issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine reported 86 percent of visits for asthma occurred in primary care physician offices, compared to 14 percent in subspecialist offices, and 84 percent of visits for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were in primary care physician offices, compared to 15 percent in subspecialist offices.

Stan Kozakowski, MD, AAFP director of medical education, agreed. "Medical school admissions policies, the academic and clinical experiences with family physicians, and rural medicine tracks have significant influence on students' choices," he said. "The schools honored today have made important investments in these and other invaluable programs that help students understand the importance of family medicine and the professional satisfaction the specialty brings."

He commended the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences for its ongoing focus on ensuring North Dakotans have access to primary medical care.

"Four consecutive years of recognition says much about their focus on educating students to meet the needs of North Dakota," Kozakowski said.

Family Medicine Top 10 Award schools employ several initiatives that support students who are interested in and most likely to become family physicians. Those initiatives include student outreach, family medicine faculty involvement in medical school committees, admissions policies that target students from rural and medically underserved areas, clinical rotations that emphasize positive experiences in family medicine, strong, student-run family medicine interest groups, and financial aid packages that minimize 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 19 students enrolled 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 2014 award recipients and the percentage of graduates entering family medicine are the following:

  • The University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences — 23.3%
  • University of Kansas School of Medicine — 19.2%
  • Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine — 19.0%
  • University of Missouri School of Medicine — 18.8%
  • Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University — 18.6%
  • University of Minnesota Medical School — 18.0%
  • University of Washington School of Medicine — 17.6%
  • University of Nebraska College of Medicine — 16.7%
  • University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health — 16.5%
  • Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine — 15.9%

These schools earned the award among 129 U.S. allopathic medical schools accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. The percentages reflect students who graduated during 2011, 2012 and 2013 and who matriculated into U.S. family medicine residency programs accredited by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education.

"The school is grateful for the recognition bestowed on our efforts by the AAFP Top-Ten Award," said Joshua Wynne, MD, MBA, MPH, UND vice president for health affairs and dean of the UND SMHS. "Credit our success to Dr. Robert Beattie, chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, and Clerkship Director Dr. Roger Schauer, 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."