So, you want to be a doctor? You’ve started medical school, and the medical world is your oyster. You’ve made a lot of good decisions to get here, but there’s another important decision lying in store. What kind of doctor do you want to be?
As a medical student, choosing a specialty is perhaps one of the toughest decisions you’ll ever make. Your curiosity about the human body is limitless, so why limit yourself to one particular organ or system? If this sounds like you, family medicine is the answer.
Family physicians care for people of all ages and genders, and focus on maintaining ongoing patient-physician relationships. They know patients’ health history and provide comprehensive, integrated and coordinated care. Family physicians conduct approximately 1 in 5 of the total medical office visits in the United States each year — more than any other medical specialty.
A typical day for a family physician may include delivering a baby and caring for the new mother, performing a sports physical on a teen, and helping patients manage chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and arthritis. With a focus on prevention, family physicians empower patients to take charge of their health. They also perform minor surgeries and procedures such as colonoscopies, endoscopies, IUD placement, colposcopies, skin biopsies, suturing lacerations, vasectomies and more.
One of the unique aspects of family medicine is that it offers a high degree of flexibility compared to other medical specialties. Because family physicians are needed everywhere, they have the option to choose to work in urban or rural settings, to pick their practice environment and scope of practice, and to pursue different career paths, such as public health, teaching or research. These options enable a manageable and rewarding balance with family life and personal interests.
Because they are in great demand, the future looks bright for family physicians. According to research done by the Robert Graham Center, the United States will need nearly 52,000 more primary care physicians by 2025. For the last 10 years, family medicine has been the most recruited specialty in the United States.
Medical students are eligible for free membership in the American Academy of Family Physicians. AAFP members have access to exclusive web content, including the medical journals American Family Physicians and Family Practice Management.