The number of primary care physicians in the United States is already too low to meet the demand. With the implementation of reforms to bring health care access to millions more, the shortage of PCPs will become even more acute.
Time Magazine reported on this looming problem last week. Experts estimate that we will be short 30,000 primary care doctors by 2015. With fewer than 7% of current medical students interested in practicing general internal medicine or family medicine, the problem will only escalate.
Like other media that report on the problem, Time blames the rise in debt that medical students accrue. Even though the average primary care physician can expect to make almost $200,000 a year, that is less than half what a cardiologist can earn and a small part of the $500,000 in loans that a student might have to repay.
Money is no doubt a consideration for medical students choosing a specialty. I doubt many applicants for dermatology residency slots chose to pursue medical studies because of a passion to treat skin diseases. Rather, dermatology offers a higher pay with more control over schedules. For younger generations, practicing medicine should not be incompatible with building a life.