Osteopathic medical students could be a solution to the primary care shortage

October 28, 2013

The call for more doctors to handle the millions of new patients entering the healthcare system seems to have attracted more potential practitioners to the field.

The call for more doctors to handle the millions of new patients entering the healthcare system seems to have attracted more potential practitioners to the field. More students are enrolling in medical school, and even those in specialties are working in primary care fields.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), osteopathic medical colleges have seen more than an 11% growth in new students in 2013. The association contributes the increase to the opening of three osteopathic medicine colleges. This spring, 4,726 students graduated from osteopathic medicine schools-that’s a 50% increase from 10 years ago.

“Because large numbers of new osteopathic physicians become primary care physicians, often in rural and underserved areas it is evident that the osteopathic medical profession will help the nation alleviate a primary care physician crisis,” said Stephen C. Shannon, DO, MPH, president and chief executive officer of AACOM. “And colleges of osteopathic medicine are expanding and increasing to meet this demand.”

For the past three academic years, 32% of graduating osteopathic medicine students report that they want to enter into primary care specialties. Twenty one percent say they want to enter family practice, while 7% want to enter general internal medicine and 4% want to enter general pediatrics. Also, 32% of osteopathic medicine graduates say they want to practice in underserved areas with a shortage of physicians.

In total, osteopathic medicine colleges house almost 5% more students this year-a total of 22,045 future physicians. There are 30 colleges in the U.S. that offer osteopathic medicine.