These programs have become increasingly popular with US medical students. In 2011, there were 77 med-peds programs in the US with 365 slots of which 84.7% were filled by US medical graduates. In contrast, there were 453 family medicine programs in the US with 2708 slots of which 48.0% were filled by US medical graduates (1).
Sounds great, right? Isn't this the new solution for primary care?
Well, there are several problems with this point of view:
- Only approximately 50% of med-peds graduates end up practicing primary care (2). The other residency graduates end up entering internal med or pediatric fellowships to sub-specialize.
- FM residents spend significantly more time in outpatient primary care work than med-peds residents during residency training. As a result, FM residents become more confident in outpatient work and are more likely to practice primary care when they leave residency.
- Family medicine residency training encompasses (in most cases) a holistic perspective of families, looking at children, pregnant women and adults together. There may be specific adult and pediatric medicine rotations but these are more or less integrated into a holistic training vision. Meanwhile, med-peds residents spend 50% of their time with the peds dept and 50% of their time with the internal medicine dept. If not done appropriately, this training has the potential to become fragmented.
- Med-peds doctors are not trained in maternity care or surgical care. Okay - I realize most family docs don't end up doing maternity or surgical care anyways but the training helps keep the broader, comprehensive perspective in mind, makes family docs more competent in basic procedures, and makes family docs a better fit in rural areas where they may be the only doctor.
I argue not that med-peds doctors cannot do primary care. I only ask that before diving straight into med-peds, students consider the pros and cons of the two specialties and honestly evaluate what type of training they are seeking from residency and what they want to practice in the future. If your school doesn't have a family medicine rotation or has a weak family medicine presence, seek out an elective at another school to see how family medicine is practiced elsewhere in the country.
With its holistic and comprehensive vision of caring for patients, family medicine is naturally the specialty for primary care. Is med-peds also? With only 50% of med-peds grads vs. virtually all FM grads choosing to practice primary care, it doesn't quite seem so.
The real question then is: "have you thought about family medicine?"
(1) National Resident Matching Program. "Results and Data. 2011 Main Residency Match." www.nrmp.org
(2) Freed GL, Fant KE, Nahra TA, Wheeler JR. Internal medicine-pediatrics physicians: their care of children versus care of adults. Academic Medicine. 2005;80:858-64.