University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

UND honored for contributions to building the family medicine workforce

Twelve medical schools that have contributed the most to the pipeline of family physicians were honored when the American Academy of Family Physicians presented its Top Ten Awards during the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Annual Spring Conference. The awards recognize schools that, during a consecutive three-year period, graduate the greatest percentage of students who chose first-year family medicine residency positions. Known as the Top Ten Awards, this year’s recognition was expanded to 12 schools to accommodate the growth in the number of geographically separated medical school campuses.

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences is in a virtual tie with two other medical schools for the largest percentage of the graduating class going into family medicine at 20.5 percent. The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University is first at 20.9 percent. At a time when the United States is facing a shortage of primary care physicians, filling the pipeline is vital to the health of America, according to A.A.F.P. President Jeff Cain.

“Family physicians are the foundation of primary care,” Cain said. “Theirs is the only specialty in which all physicians are trained to provide primary care. Research has consistently shown that more than six in 10 people who have a usual source of health care say a family physician provides that care. The expertise of family physicians becomes even more important to people who have serious and chronic health conditions.”

Americans make more office visits to family physicians than any other medical specialty, and family physicians provide care for patients who have a sore throat, patients who need stitches, and patients who have multiple, complex conditions such as diabetes 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.

“These 12 medical schools have demonstrated their consistent commitment to meeting the nation’s need for family physicians,” said Cain. “I commend them, their leadership and their faculty for helping to ensure that Americans have access to the care they need.”

Stan Kozakowski, director of medical education agreed. “Initiatives at the medical school level are invaluable to increasing the number of students who choose family medicine for their specialty,” he said. “Admissions policies, academic and clinical experience with family physicians, and rural medicine tracks have significant influence on students’ choices.”

He noted that 2013 is the third consecutive year that six of the AAFP’s top 10 schools—the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University; the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences; the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University; the University of New Mexico School of Medicine; the University of Kansas School of Medicine; and the University of Washington School of Medicine—have been cited as a Top 10 school.

“This says much about their focus on educating students to meet the needs of the nation,” Kozakowski said.

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, 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 minimize student debt.

The 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 13 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 2013 award recipients and their percentage of graduates entering family medicine are as follows:

•  The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University — 20.9 percent
•  University of Kansas School of Medicine — 20.8 percent
•  University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences — 20.5 percent
•  Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine — 20.1 percent
•  Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University — 18.5 percent
•  University of New Mexico School of Medicine — 18.3 percent
•  University of Minnesota Medical School — 17.3 percent
•  University of Arizona College of Medicine — 17.2 percent
•  University of Washington School of Medicine — 17.2 percent
•  Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine — 16.1 percent
•  University of California-Davis School of Medicine — 15.8 percent
•  University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine — 15.4 percent

Family medicine physicians are the most sought after specialty in rural North Dakota; 89 percent of the counties in North Dakota are partially or fully designated by the federal government as a primary care physician shortage area.

“We are very pleased to be recognized as one of the nation’s most effective medical schools in encouraging students to pursue the specialty of family medicine,” said Joshua Wynne, vice president for health affairs and dean of the SMHS. “We are working hard to address North Dakota’s need for physicians and other health care workers, especially those in the field of family medicine, through our Health Care Workforce Initiative. Although our percentage is among the best in the country, the small size of our class means that we still don’t produce enough family physicians for the needs of the region. That’s why we are so pleased that the Legislature has funded an increase in our class sizes, which will enable us to produce even more of the health care providers that North Dakota needs.”

Ashley Bentley and Leslie Champlin with the American Academy of Family Physicians contributed to this article.

-- Denis MacLeod, assistant director, Office of Alumni and Community Relations, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, 777.2733,

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