Tufts Medical Students Match in Record-High Numbers in Family Medicine

BOSTON (March 16, 2012) — Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) matched 22 medical school students, or 12% percent of its graduating class, to residency programs in family medicine. This is the largest number of matches ever in family medicine at Tufts, more than double the average percentage of the previous three years, and approximately four percentage points above the national average of students matching in family medicine.

Health-care reform is occurring at the fastest pace since the introduction of Medicare in the 1960s, and increasing the number of primary care physicians is key to achieving the nation’s goal of improving access to care, improving the nation’s health, and controlling health-care costs. The Association of American Medical Colleges’ Center for Workforce Studies predicts that there will be a shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians in the next decade. The Massachusetts Medical Society’s 2011 Physician Workforce Study reported severe physician shortages in internal and family medicine, both primary care specialties, for the sixth consecutive year.

In response to the physician shortage, TUSM expanded its class size in 2009. That same year, TUSM partnered with Maine Medical Center on a program that provides students with experience in rural practice as well as training in a major tertiary medical center. Earlier this year, Tufts announced the launch of a new physician assistant, or physician-extender, program to assist physicians in providing access to care.

“Another core step was redeveloping our curriculum to focus students on taking a patient-centered approach, a core value of primary care. In this patient-centered model, students begin interviewing patients in the community in their first week of medical school and progress on to a year-long apprenticeship with a primary care physician. This mentorship model introduces students to primary care earlier than most medical schools. Students are mentored by these faculty physicians, learn how to interact with patients, and obtain a first-hand experience in primary care,” said Amy Kuhlik, MD, dean of students at TUSM.

In addition to the hands-on training in local communities, the curriculum changes also include a six-week rotation in family medicine for all students. Students train in doctors’ offices, community health centers, and academic teaching practices throughout New England. Students return to the classroom one day a week for innovative exercises such as interviewing patients with physical disabilities and patients on the autism spectrum and receiving direct feedback from those patients.

“Students in the third year participate in workshops on health-care systems and reform; information mastery, or the art and science of efficiently accessing state-of-the-art and evidence-based information while caring for patients; treatment of underserved patients; physician wellness; and motivational interviewing, which involves coaching patients to discover their own motivations to make better decisions about their health,” said Wayne Altman, MD, director of medical student education in the TUSM department of family medicine. 

“Tufts students who choose family medicine are interested in making a difference in the communities that they serve and improving health-care outcomes in populations. Graduates from Tufts will attend some of the top programs in the country including our own Tufts Family Medicine program at Cambridge Health Alliance, which will help to address the physician shortage in Massachusetts, as well as at programs from Maine to California,” said Randy Wertheimer, MD, Jaharis Chair of Family Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine and Chief, Department of Family Medicine, at Cambridge Health Alliance.

The Tufts University Family Medicine Residency program at Cambridge Health Alliance, widely regarded as one of the best in the country, has pioneered a model program that relies less on training residents in hospitals and instead emphasizes outpatient training where family physicians are most apt to work.

The match, conducted annually by the National Resident Matching Program, matches medical school students with residency programs at US teaching hospitals.  

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About Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences

Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University are international leaders in innovative medical education and advanced research. The School of Medicine and the Sackler School are renowned for excellence in education in general medicine, biomedical sciences, special combined degree programs in business, health management, public health, bioengineering and international relations, as well as basic and clinical research at the cellular and molecular level. Ranked among the top in the nation, the School of Medicine is affiliated with six major teaching hospitals and more than 30 health care facilities. Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School undertake research that is consistently rated among the highest in the nation for its effect on the advancement of medical science.


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