Primary Care Residents in Teaching Health Centers: Their Intentions to Practice in Underserved Settings After Residency Training

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To describe the residents who chose to train in teaching health centers (THCs), which are community-based ambulatory patient care sites that sponsor primary care residencies, and their intentions to practice in underserved settings.


The authors surveyed all THC residents training in academic years 2013–2014, 2014–2015, and 2015–2016, comparing their demographic characteristics with data available for residents nationally, and examined THC residents’ intentions to practice in underserved settings using logistic regression analysis.


The overall survey response rate was 89% (1,031/1,153). THC resident respondents were similar to residents nationally in family medicine, geriatrics, internal medicine, obstetrics–gynecology, pediatrics, and psychiatry in terms of gender, age, race, and ethnicity. Twenty-nine percent (283) of respondents came from a rural background, and 46% (454) had an educationally and/or economically disadvantaged background. More than half of respondents (524; 55%) intended to practice in an underserved setting on completion of their training. Respondents were more likely to intend to practice in an underserved area if they came from a rural background (odds ratio 1.58; 95% confidence interval 1.08, 2.32) or disadvantaged background (odds ratio 2.81; 95% confidence interval 1.91, 4.13).


THCs attract residents from rural and/or disadvantaged backgrounds who seem to be more inclined to practice in underserved areas than those from more urban and economically advantaged roots. THC residents’ intentions to practice in underserved areas indicate that primary care training programs sponsored by community-based ambulatory patient care sites represent a promising strategy to improve the health care workforce distribution in the United States.

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