Harvard Initiatives Seek to Draw Premed Students to Primary Care
As the numbers of practicing primary care physicians dwindle across the nation, new initiatives at Harvard to draw attention to the field of primary care are gaining momentum.
Only 32 percent of students nationwide plan to enter primary care, while the remaining 68 percent are hoping to specialize in a particular field, according to survey results recently released by Kaplan Test Prep. Although the financial incentives are great—according to a 2012 survey by the Medical Group Management Association, specialty physicians on average make $150,000 more a year than their primary care counterparts—most students in the survey who claimed an interest in specialty work cited “academic interests” as their primary motivation. Only 2 percent attributed their goals to the financial incentives, according to the Kaplan survey.
But many disagree that primary care is less intellectually stimulating than specialization.
In response to the survey data, Tarina Quraishi ’14, a pre-med student and former secretary of the Harvard Pre-Medical Society, remarked that primary care can be just as academically stimulating as a specialization, if not more so. Quraishi said she plans to pursue a career in primary care herself.
“An interdisciplinary approach can come into play [with primary care,]” Quraishi said. “You don’t necessarily get to do in a specialty.”
Oona B. Ceder ’90, director of premedical and health career advising at Harvard’s Office of Career Services, echoed the sentiment, describing primary care as “very intellectually stimulating and valuable.”
She also described her office’s recent collaborations with Harvard Medical School’s newly created Center for Primary Care. Last spring, the partnership sponsored a panel discussion, “The Hows and Whys of Primary Care,” and is currently planning similar events.
The Center for Primary Care is also implementing initiatives to expose medical students to the field of primary care. One such effort that the center participated in is the Crimson Care Collaborative, which has developed and implemented five community health practices in the surrounding neighborhoods of Boston staffed by Medical School students and faculty.
Albert C. Yeh ’07, a Harvard Medical School student who has been involved in the Crimson Care Collaborative for the past few years, described the program as a great experience.
Still, like many in his position, Yeh said he is not currently considering primary care seriously. Instead, he said he planned to pursue a longtime interest in oncology.
Overall, the popularity of primary care is increasing slowly but steadily, according to Ceder.
“We are seeing what appears to be a growing interest in primary care and community healthcare amongst Harvard College students and also among students at Harvard Medical School,” she said.