Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Touro University ranks 10th in nation for percentage of primary care doctors graduating

By Sarah Rohrs / Times-Herald
Posted: 05/07/2010 01:12:42 AM PDT

Vallejo's Touro University has gotten major accolades for doing its part to infuse new life into a rapidly dwindling field -- that of the old-fashioned family doctor.

The U.S. News and World Report national ranking of medical schools placed Touro University's College of Osteopathic Medicine 10th in the nation for percentage of medical students who choose the primary care route.

College Dean Dr. Michael Clearfield said the significance of the recognition is big. The rankings were made public last week.

The vast majority of medical students go into specialties rather than primary care because of pay and red tape with insurance company reimbursements, Clearfield said.

He added the decline in medical students choosing primary care careers is posing a serious threat to the nation's health care system.

"We are an aging population that is going to need a lot more care and we already don't have enough physicians to do it," Clearfield said.

The need for primary health care providers will be further exacerbated as the nation transitions into a more inclusive health care system, he said.

Old-fashioned family doctors are not yet a thing of the past, but they could be if more emphasis is not placed on promoting that field, he said.

Each year, about 135 students graduate from Touro's College of Osteopathic Medicine, with between 70 and 80 going into primary care, Clearfield said.

The magazine's prestigious national rankings are based on an average of students graduating in 2007, 2008 and 2009 who go into primary care.

The No. 1 ranked school for producing primary care physicians is Michigan State University. No. 2 is West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine, followed by University of North Texas Health Science Center, according to the U.S. News and World Report website.

A 2008 survey of medical students by the University of California at San Francisco showed only 2 percent of medical students planned to go into primary care, according to a Touro University announcement.

A similar survey conducted in 1990 showed 9 percent chose primary care, the school's announcement said.

Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at srohrs@timesheraldonline.com or (707) 553-6832.