UB to Organize Primary-Care Initiatives Under Regional Network

By Lois Baker

Release Date: August 11, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In an effort to help meet the nationwide shortage of primary-care physicians, the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will combine its various initiatives designed to attract more medical students and undergraduates to the primary-care field under one umbrella organization.

Initiatives such as "Prescription For Success" and the placement of medical students in rural-hospital summer externships will be combined formally with others in the near future as part of the Regional Rural College Network, according to Thomas C. Rosenthal, M.D., associate professor and chair of the Department of Family Medicine in the UB medical school.

Rosenthal says the idea to create the network was formed in the fall of 1992 to help meet the need for primary-care physicians.

Medical schools traditionally have had difficulty recruiting and retaining student interest in the primary-care field -- an area that includes family practitioners, general pediatricians, general internists and obstetricians. The major reason is that many students are discouraged by the vast knowledge base required for primary care, Rosenthal says. Yet "neither generalist nor specialist can know everything there is to know," he notes, adding that students must be taught the basic ground rules of patient and information management.

Students from rural and inner-city communities tend to be first-generation physicians, Rosenthal says. "Both of these groups tend toward generalist careers," he says, noting that they have more contact with primary-care physicians, who serve as role models. Rural residents, in particular, also may have more "community-oriented" or "service-oriented" experiences, he adds.

Among the initiatives to come under the auspices of the Regional Rural College Network is a pilot inner-city high school partnership program in which Western New York hospitals and colleges work together to identify and recruit high-school and college students interested in primary care.

The UB Primary Care Resource Center sponsors "Prescription For Success," a program presented at various institutions to familiarize pre-medical students with the medical-school application and interview process.

The program also includes an informational session to examine such topics as the proposed changes in the health-care system, the severe shortage of primary-care physicians and primary-care career paths.

Participating schools include the State University of New York College at Geneseo, Canisius College, St. Bonaventure University and other campuses, in addition to a session held at UB that encompasses four-year colleges in the Western New York area.

Several hundred students participated in the program last year, and the same number are expected in the upcoming academic year, says Kimberly A. Crooks, associate director for recruitment at the Primary Care Resource Center.

The center also places medical students in six-week summer externships in rural community hospitals in Batavia and in Allegany, Chautauqua, Genesee and Wyoming counties.

In addition, the center sponsored the New York State Pre-med Advisors Program last June to assist college advisors in discussing ways to recruit and retain more primary-care physicians to help meet the UB medical school's goal to have 50 percent of its students select generalist careers.

In fact, the university has made progress toward that goal.

Fourty-four percent of UB medical school graduates selected generalist residencies in 1994, compared to 38 percent who chose such residencies in 1993 and 37 percent who choose them in 1992, Crooks says. Of the 1994 graduates who selected generalist residencies, 52 percent choose internal medicine, 33 percent selected pediatrics and 15 percent family medicine.