The Effect of a Community-Based Medical School on the State and Local Physician Workforce

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Abstract

Purpose

To assess the effect of community-based medical education as implemented by Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (MSU-CHM), which has immersed students in diverse communities across Michigan since its founding, on the physician workforce in the six communities in which clinical campuses were initially established.

Method

The authors used American Medical Association Masterfile data from 2011 to obtain practice locations and specialty data for all MSU-CHM graduates from 1972 through 2006. They classified physicians as either practicing primary care or practicing in a high-need specialty. Using Geographic Information Systems software, the authors geocoded practice locations to the ZIP Code level, evaluated whether the practice was within a Health Professional Shortage Area, and determined rurality, using 2006 Rural–Urban Commuting Area Code data. They visually compared maps of the footprints of each campus to glean insights.

Results

The authors analyzed 3,107 of 3,309 graduates (94%). Of these, 635 (20%) practiced within 50 miles of their medical school campus. Saginaw and Flint graduates were more likely to practice in Detroit and its surrounding suburbs, reflecting these communities’ urban character. Grand Rapids, the community with the strongest tertiary medical care focus, had the lowest proportions of rural and high-need specialty graduates.

Conclusions

This case study suggests that distributed medical education campuses can have a significant effect on the long-term regional physician workforce. Students’ long-term practice choices may also reflect the patient populations and specialty patterns of the communities where they learn.

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