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Med Care. 1996 May;34(5):439-54.

Minority physicians serving in rural National Health Service Corps sites.

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  • 1Department of Family Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 27599, USA.


Providing National Health Service Corps (NHSC) scholarships to under-represented minorities has been an important federal mechanism to bolster the numbers of minority physicians. Little is known about how minorities fare during their NHSC commitment periods. In 1991, questionnaires were mailed to all primary care physicians placed in rural communities from 1987 through 1990 in the NHSC scholarship program, in a retrospective cohort study. One hundred and twenty-two of the 398 eligible NHSC physician respondents (31%) indicated they were minorities. National Health Service Corps physicians were found to be well matched by race to the sites where they served, and minority NHSC physicians worked in counties and practices with greater proportions of minority inhabitants and patients. Minorities among rural NHSC physicians were less likely to have been raised in rural areas and were less interested in rural practice during medical school and when placed in their rural NHSC sites. The relative urban preferences of minority physicians in large part explains why this group was more dissatisfied with their work and personal lives while serving their obligations. Minority physicians also reported lower satisfaction for their families. Minority and nonminority NHSC physicians reported comparable acceptance by their communities, and demonstrated similarly low retention rates. The NHSC plays a significant role in the careers of many young minority physicians and in promoting the temporary availability of minority physicians for rural health professional shortage areas. However, as of 1991, many minority NHSC physicians placed in rural areas would have preferred urban sites, which resulted in their lower satisfaction.

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