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Release: Immediate

EDITORS: The following news release concerns a report on trends in the Iowa physician population. Roger Tracy will be available to discuss the report Saturday, Aug. 23, from 1-5 p.m. at the Iowa Family Practice Opportunities Fair at the Polk County Convention Complex in Des Moines. The event is an opportunity for Iowa communities to recruit family doctors. Community representatives from across the state and physicians beginning their careers will also be available for interviews. Tracy can be reached at (515) 242-2599 during the event.

UI report charts influx of primary care physicians

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa communities are getting the types of doctors they need most, according to a report from the University of Iowa College of Medicine. Last year, nearly half of the state's new physicians were general medicine specialists -- family physicians, internists and pediatricians who provide the bulk of basic medical care.

The growth of these medical fields -- also known as primary care specialties -- is a response to changes in the health care market, according to Roger Tracy, director of the college's Office of Statewide Clinical Programs, which compiled the report. It also reflects the fact that more graduates of U.S. medical schools are choosing primary care careers.

"Ideally, primary care doctors ought to make up 50 percent of those entering practice," Tracy says, noting that in 1996, 48.9 percent of the Iowa's 282 new physicians specialized in primary care. "You can't get much closer than that," he adds.

Iowa ended 1996 with a net gain of 63 physicians, most of them primary care practitioners. Most significant gains were in family medicine and general internal medicine, each with 21 more physicians by year's end -- substantially higher than the 10-year average gains of two and nine doctors, respectively.

About 60 percent of the Iowa doctors who retired, died, or otherwise stopped practicing in 1996 were non-primary care specialists, a first since the UI began tracking physician trends. In past years, the state experienced just the opposite: Nearly 60 percent of physicians leaving Iowa practices were primary care doctors.

Rural communities have typically sought family practitioners able to treat common health problems, but fewer of Iowa's smallest towns are recruiting physicians today. Much of the current demand from primary care doctors stems from the growth of managed care insurance plans and integrated health delivery systems in larger cities. This is particularly true of the substantial gain in general internists.

The UI College of Medicine has addressed the need for primary care physicians with a revised curriculum that stresses general and community-based medicine. More than 50 percent of its 1997 graduates entered training programs in family medicine, internal medicine or pediatrics.

"The trend toward more primary care doctors in the state is consistent with changes in our curriculum over the last two to three years," Tracy says. The college is particularly strong in family medicine, this year sending 27 percent of its graduates to residency programs in the specialty, including the Statewide Family Practice Training Program coordinated by the college at nine Iowa sites.

Of the program's 1996 graduates, 70 percent began practice in Iowa, an all-time high according to Tracy. While the total number of opportunities is declining, there remains a need for additional family doctors. At present, there are 152 private practice opportunities available for family physicians in 112 Iowa communities.

Representatives from 55 communities will attend the annual Family Practice Opportunities Fair sponsored by the college and the Iowa Family Practice Residents Council in Des Moines on Saturday, Aug. 23. The event is an chance for representatives to meet with doctors who are completing family medicine residencies.