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Release: Immediate

Primary care careers remain top choice of UI medical grads

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Once again, the majority of this year's University of Iowa College of Medicine graduates will enter careers in primary care specialties -- medical fields essential to the health of Iowa and the nation. According to Wednesday's "Match Day" announcements, nearly 57 percent of students will continue their education in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, or obstetrics and gynecology.

Match Day marks the time when medical students across the country learn where they will spend the next several years pursuing advanced training in their specialties of choice. Graduating UI medical students, their families, friends and teachers gathered Wednesday, March 19, at the college to await the moment when they could tear into envelopes and learn what the future holds.

For college officials, the overall result is no surprise: The school has a recent tradition of high interest in primary care over specialized fields, perhaps due in part to its strong emphasis on general and community-based medicine.

"As a leading research-oriented medical center, we are very pleased to see so many of our students choose careers in primary care and to be among the nation's top schools for primary care education," says Dr. Robert P. Kelch, dean of the college. "While all medical specialties have essential roles, primary care physicians occupy the front lines of health care."

"All our students complete medical school having seen the role of primary care physicians in Iowa communities," says Dr. Peter Densen, associate dean for student affairs and curriculum at the college. "Our focus on primary care is very strong, but we continue to offer a broad-based education that prepares our graduates for an array of opportunities."

For many students, Match Day is the culmination of four years in medical school and visits to medical residency programs across the country. The National Residency Matching Program (NRMP) is the process by which students are guaranteed places in such programs. All UI students who participated in the match secured residency positions, 69 percent with their first choice and 86 percent with one of their top three choices.

Of the 169 students who will earn the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree from the college this year, 155 participated in the NRMP. Some 27 percent chose residencies in family medicine, 21 percent in internal medicine, 6 percent in pediatrics, and 3 percent in obstetrics and gynecology.

Some 58 graduates will remain in Iowa for their post-graduate training, 25 in Iowa community hospitals and 33 at the UI Hospitals and Clinics. Some 20 will enter the Statewide Family Practice Training Program, which operates residency programs at nine sites across Iowa.

Among UI graduates who complete family medicine residencies in Iowa, more than 60 percent remain in the state to begin their careers, many in communities with less than 10,000 residents, according to Roger Tracy, director of the Office of Statewide Clinical Education Programs for the college.

Family medicine remains an area of particular strength for the UI. The percentage of graduates pursuing this specialty is well above the national average of 17 percent. Last year, the college was one of only four schools recognized by the American Academy of Family Physicians with its Gold Achievement Award, which honors medical schools for success in producing graduates who enter family medicine.

The NRMP reports strong interest in primary care among students at other schools as well. Across the country, the number of first-year primary care residencies offered in the match exceeds the number of residency positions in more specialized medical fields. Primary care residencies are also filled at a higher rate.