Admissions, Recruitment and Retention: Finding and Keeping the Generalist-Oriented Student


Mark Linzer, Thomas Slavin, Sunita Mutha, John Takayama, Luis Branda, Selma VanEyck, Julia McMurray, Howard Rabinowitz, SGIM Task Force on Career Choice in Primary Care and Internal Medicine

April 1, 1994

As the country strives to produce larger numbers of generalist physicians, considerable controversy has arisen over whether or not generalist applicants can be identified, recruited, and influenced to keep a generalist-oriented commitment throughout medical training. The authors present new and existing data to show that: 1) preadmission (BA/MD or post-baccalaureate) programs can help to identify generalist-oriented students; 2) characteristics determined at admission to medical school are predictive of future generalist career choice; 3) current inpatient-oriented training programs strongly push students away from a primary care career; 4) women are more likely than men to choose generalist careers, primarily because of those careers' interpersonal orientation; and 5) residency training programs are able to select applicants likely to become generalists. Therefore, to produce more generalists, attempts should be made to encourage generalist-oriented students to enter medical schools and to revise curricula to focus on outpatient settings in which students can establish effective and satisfying relationships with patients. These strategies are most likely to be successful if enacted within the context of governmental and medical school-based changes that allow for more reimbursement and respect for the generalist disciplines.

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