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How can we change medical students’ perceptions of a career in family medicine? Marketing or substance?

  • Lahad, Amnon1, 2
  • Bazemore, Andrew3
  • Petek, Davorina4
  • Phillips, William R.5
  • Merenstein, Dan6
  • 1 Hebrew University & Clalit Health Services, Departments of Family Medicine, Jerusalem, Israel , Jerusalem (Israel)
  • 2 The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Faculty of Medicine, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, 9112102, Israel , Jerusalem (Israel)
  • 3 Robert Graham Center Policy Studies in Family Medicine & Primary Care, 1133 Connecticut Ave, NW Ste#1100, Washington, DC, 20036, USA , Washington, DC (United States)
  • 4 University of Ljubljana, Department of Family medicine Faculty of Medicine, Poljanski nasip 58, Ljubljan, 1000, Slovenia , Ljubljan (Slovenia)
  • 5 University of Washington, Family Medicine, Seattle, WA, 98195-6390, USA , Seattle (United States)
  • 6 Research Programs Family Medicine, Georgetown University Medical Center, School of Nursing and Health Studies, Department of Human Science, Building D 240, 4000 Reservoir Road, NW, Washington, DC, 20007, USA , Washington, DC (United States)
Published Article
Israel Journal of Health Policy Research
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Aug 25, 2018
DOI: 10.1186/s13584-018-0248-6
Springer Nature


Family Medicine (FM) is the care of unselected patients with undifferentiated problems in the settings where people need care in our communities. It is intellectually challenging, providing breadth and depth unparalleled in other areas of medical practice. In one survey only 19% of Israeli students reported being interested in FM. Students interested in FM had greater interest in bedside and direct long-term patient care. Students not planning FM residency training had preconceived notions that the discipline had lower academic opportunities and prestige. What can be done to increase student interest in careers in FM? This commentary includes perspectives of family practice leaders from several countries: The problem isn’t the students it is the scope of practice and expectations both of which can and should change if FM in Israel wants to stay viable. The scope of FM should be broadened to include more procedures and new technologies. This may also increase the earning potential of Family Practitioners (FPs). Payment policy and credentialing barriers should be change to expand scope of practice and allow FPs to practice at the full extent of their training. FM should offer clear professional horizon with potential for many sub-specialties and areas of focus. The Israeli HMOs, the Ministry of Health and the Israeli Association of FM should invest heavily in building academic departments of FM and promoting research. This will enhance the image of FM in the eyes of the students, the profession and the public. The clinical work environment should be improved by reducing bureaucratic assignments, such as issuing certifications, dealing with quality measurements and renewing chronic prescriptions. Much of this work can be done by nurse practitioners (NPs) working as part of an FP-led team. These NPs can also take care of patients with limited complaints to make the work of the FP more challenging and attractive. Training must include opportunities to develop longitudinal relationships with patients and families across problems and over time. It is these relationships that add value to the process of care, improve patient outcomes and provide meaning to sustain clinical careers that meet the needs of patients and communities.

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