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New Study Finds Mission-Driven Physicians More Likely to Practice Among Urban Underserved

Physicians with mission-based values (i.e., a sense of responsibility or moral obligation to a particular community or a defined patient population) as well as those who self-identity with a certain community and its patient population, are more likely to practice in urban underserved areas. Recognizing this, medical schools interested in identifying physicians motivated to practice in underserved areas can examine such humanistic- and intrinsic-level factors in greater detail to identify and recruit mission-driven students.

Moreover, clinical practices in physician-shortage areas can retain these mission-driven physicians through modifications in work hours and other lifestyle factors.

These are among the findings of a study led by family physician Kara Odom Walker, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.H.S., that involved primary care physicians in Los Angeles County. The study, "Recruiting and Retaining Primary Care Physicians in Urban Underserved Communities: The Importance of Having a Mission to Serve," was published in the November American Journal of Public Health.

"Many studies have shown that those from underserved, rural and minority backgrounds are more likely to return and remain in underserved areas," Walker said in an interview with AAFP News Now. "We need to continue to encourage students throughout the pipeline to consider opportunities in underserved communities.

"We need to identify motivated and mission-driven premedical students prior to entering medical school and support their interests through training and mentorship opportunities in medical school."

According to Walker, medical schools should consider moving from a reliance on score-based criteria for admission to a focus on identifying mission-focused applicants as part of efforts to boost the number of physicians who practice among the underserved.

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