Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Medical School That Stays True To Its Mission For Primary Care

"Mercer medical school receives $1.5 million gift"
"Mercer University announced Tuesday the school has received one of its largest-ever anonymous donations that will endow a chair at the university’s School of Medicine...

"The Rufus Harris Chair will direct the medical school’s Center for Rural Heath and Health Disparities...

"According to the news release, a recent study showed the Mercer School of Medicine is one of the most successful schools in the nation at producing physicians who practice in rural areas, shortage areas and low-income areas. The study ranked Mercer second in percentage of graduates who practice in low-income areas in Georgia."
According to the Mercer University School of Medicine, their mission is:
To educate physicians and health professionals to meet the primary care and health care needs of rural and medically underserved areas of Georgia
Utilizing the Graham Center's Med School Mapper Tool, Mercer places 26% of its graduates into rural areas, 54% into HPSA shortage areas, with about 65% remaining in state and 56% into primary care. Of its graduates going into family medicine, 68% go into shortage areas and 39% into rural areas.

This is definitely an example of a medical school trying to stay true to its mission. This grant is not only going to amplify their efforts, but will really benefit the residents of Georgia.

With that being said, when looking at other medical schools, not many are willing to take on a commitment to help their communities with primary care, especially where I go to school within the urban and suburban areas in the northeast. Whose responsibility is it as we move forward to produce physicians that are needed in communities with shortages? Why is Mercer able to do this successfully, where other schools fall short?

Once 2014 hits (pending repeal/replace/laziness), will schools alter their mission statements for the sake of our nation's public health? My initial prediction - not likely but there is always hope!

Keep it up Mercer! You truly are an example of where medical schools should be focusing their efforts in producing the workforce our country truly needs.


  1. I wish this were true about Mercer. While all PC is not Family Medicine, the FM match is the best predictor as virtually all FM enter PC, while many (most) IM and many Peds do not. In FM, Mercer has been less than stellar. For the 5-year period 2003-2008, an average of 8.03% of Mercer grads entered FM, lower than the national average of 8.51%, and ranking #70. For total number entering FM, it is even lower because of its small class size: it averaged 4.2 students into FM/year, against a national average of 10.8, and ranked #102

  2. So, you are, in essence, going to downplay Mercer's efforts simply based on a national average? Seemingly every person that repudiates a school whose focus hinges upon primary care makes that their first and only argument. The fact of the matter is that Mercer has a mission to produce physicians for the rural and underserved regions of the state of Georgia. The specific focus of the school, in regards to specialty slant, is handed down by an executive board commissioned by the Governor. In Georgia, they have tasked Mercer with galvanizing 5 core areas of need in the state: FM, IM, PEDS, General Surgery, and OB/GYN. The latter two being added in the last decade.

    While I understand your argument Mr. Freeman, I would still like to give kudos to the school for having a mission geared toward a need in our healthcare system. Something that is driven only by the students who desire to pursue this field with their heart, and not their ego or pocketbook. Which, I might add, becomes increasingly difficult as the costs of scale push ever higher in relations to paying off their student loans or the stereotype that primary care physicians just didn't make the cut on their boards - hence their specialty choice.

    As we all know, until a system is put in place to level the playing field with the sub-specialties in regards to reimbursement, stature in the medical community, etc..., the national trend will persist for the most part.

    Ultimately, primary care should not be a decision left only to those that come from a background fiscally stable enough to cope with the overwhelming burden students assume. Especially when you consider that those most willing to practice in a rural, underserved area most certainly would be those who are accustomed to living or growing up in those very locations. Common sense dictates that most people who come from those areas are in the same boat as many others: lower SES, fewer education opportunities, and the like. We need to bridge the gap and assist those types of students to have every opportunity to help their small community and that is the purpose for which this medical school exists - period.

    With that, Mercer, thank you for being the change you wish to see and not simply paying lip service to those who cannot overcome the insurmountable odds you are tackling each and every day.

  3. Medical schools are all moving steadily away from family medicine, primary care, rural, and underserved outcomes. A major reason is the decline in family medicine choice. When medical students choose IM, only 1 in 6 will deliver primary care. For PD and MPD it is less than 1 in 2. Also regarding distribution, the choice of family medicine triples location rates where needed. Also FM grads are most likely to remain instate in all except states with top concentrations of workforce. Mercer declining from 32% FM to less than 5% results in Mercer grad outcomes top in the nation in rural and rural underserved as well as top instate most needed primary care to levels approaching top 20 MCAT medical school graduates who have lowest of all of these most needed outcomes.

    The US does not need more centers. The US needs more family physicians. Mercer and others would best create a family medicine medical school to meet all of the mission areas that it expresses in the area of health access.