Interest in rural medicine among osteopathic residents and medical students
Citation: Colegrove DJ, Whitacre BE. Interest in rural medicine among osteopathic residents and medical students. Rural and Remote Health 9: 1192. (Online) 2009. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au
Introduction: This study examines US osteopathic residents’ and medical students’ attitudes and willingness to practice in rural medicine. The multiple aims of this study were to determine: (1) if there are any significant differences in interest in rural medicine among various levels of training; (2) the relative age, gender, and race of those who are intending to pursue a career in rural health; and (3) whether a number of demographic characteristics (age, race, year of study) or participation in a rural elective significantly impacted the students’ and residents’ interest in practicing in a rural area. In particular, differences between osteopathic students and residents are emphasized, because few previous studies have focused on this topic.
Methods: De-identified, cross-sectional, descriptive techniques utilizing 2 distinct web-based electronic surveys were used in this study. Each survey was sent electronically to medical students and physicians-in-training. Statistical methods included means, frequencies, and t-tests to determine significant differences among groups. Logistic regression was used to determine the impact of various factors on overall rural interest for each group.
Results: A total of 161 students from two osteopathic colleges completed and submitted the survey as well as 51 residents/fellows from a variety of training programs. Approximately 43% of the student respondents and 67% of residents expressed an intention of practicing rural medicine. Several notable differences were found among the opinions of students and residents, particularly regarding the perceived prestige of rural physicians. Among medical students, overall interest in rural practice decreased in years 2 to 4; however, there was a positive influence if the students were aged 34 years or over. As expected, being raised in a rural area had a positive impact on rural interest. Additional findings included the lack of significance for gender or race, and the positive influence of taking a rural elective. For residents, some results are similar, although interest in rural medicine actually increased with time.
Conclusion: It is imperative that osteopathic medical schools recruit individuals who will be most likely to pursue rural medicine, and then train them to provide health access for rural populations. Further, financial incentives are important to both students and residents, suggesting that ‘loan forgiveness’ programs or scholarships may be useful in promoting rural location. In order to facilitate the training of individuals who will likely pursue rural medicine, there must be institutional dedication to this goal.
Key words: medical students, osteopathic medical education, residents, rural interest, rural medicine, USA.
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