Telegram & Gazette: UMass Medical School medical director says not enough doctors choosing primary care to replace aging workforce

January 12, 2016

A UMass Medical School medical director says the workforce of primary care doctors is aging and not enough medical school graduates are going into family medicine to replace them, according to an article in the December 2015 Community Health Care Guide in the Telegram & Gazette.

“There’s superb evidence that having a high proportion of primary care doctors to specialists leads to higher value in your health care. Value being described as higher quality and lower cost,” Warren Ferguson, MD, a professor and vice chair of Family Medicine & Community Health at UMass Medical School, told the Telegram & Gazette. Dr. Ferguson works part time at a community health center.

Some medical school students choose specialties over primary care because of the higher salaries, Ferguson said in the article. Ferguson also is medical director of the Massachusetts Area Health Education Center (MassAHEC) Network and director of academic programs for the Health and Criminal Justice Program, units within UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division.

UMass Medical School conducted surveys in 2008 and 2013 of primary care physicians working at community health centers to gauge the effect of Massachusetts health care reform on the centers. The 2013 survey found an aging workforce of primary care physicians with fewer doctors planning to continue working in the community health centers in the next five years. The surveys were done by the MassAHEC Network and the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, with expertise from Commonwealth Medicine’s Center for Health Policy and Research and the Department of Family Medicine & Community Health.