Though becoming a neurosurgeon may seem more prestigious, becoming a primary care physician is more significant as it will help avert the looming physician shortage. Most Caribbean medical school graduates become primary care physicians – a role that encompasses internal medicine, OB/GYN, family medicine, and pediatrics. Half of all primary care physicians in the U.S. are from foreign and Caribbean medical schools. Currently, there are over 209,000 primary care physicians practicing throughout the United States. While the present number is already low, the concern is that it will continue to drop.

More medical school graduates are opting to specialize. To graduates, specialties are more attractive than primary care since specialty physicians are some of the highest paid medical professionals in the United States. However, as more graduates join these fields, fewer select primary care, despite the numerous career opportunities available.

The demand for primary care physicians is at an all-time high. A recent study from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has shown that there are only 80 primary care physicians for every 100,000 people in the United States. It is even worse in rural areas: only 68 for 100,000 people. The AARP claims that the U.S. is short 16,000 primary care physicians. In certain underserved areas of California, some people have to drive over an hour to see a primary care physician. From The New York Times:

A government council has recommended that a given region have 60 to 80 primary care doctors per 100,000 residents, and 85 to 105 specialists. The Inland Empire has about 40 primary care doctors and 70 specialists per 100,000 residents – the worst shortage in California, in both cases.

This shortage will only get worse because of multiple factors. As the Affordable Care Act expands health insurance to 30 million Americans and baby boomers turn 65, more primary care physicians are retiring when they’re needed most. Many of these retiring physicians don’t have anyone to replace them. The American Association of Medical Colleges predicts that there will be a shortage of 140,000 physicians by 2025. With these factors combined, it’s the perfect storm for a massive public health crisis.

Most primary care residency slots are left unfilled by U.S. medical school graduates, which exacerbates this problem. American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine’s approval by the New York State Education Department and recognition by the Medical Board of California allow our graduates to obtain residencies throughout the United States. This is where Caribbean medical school graduates can step in.

With high demand, there are many opportunities for medical school graduates to break into primary care in underserved communities throughout the United States. Most AUA graduates become primary care physicians because they know it’s a profession that allows them to make a difference. There are numerous advantages to being a primary care physician, including steady pay, standard office hours, and more.

There will always be a need for primary care physicians and by choosing to become one, you will not only help your career, you will help your community.