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J Grad Med Educ. 2011 Jun;3(2):130-7. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-10-00066.1.

An International Health Track Is Associated With Care for Underserved US Populations in Subsequent Clinical Practice.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Recent efforts to increase insurance coverage have revealed limits in primary care capacity, in part due to physician maldistribution. Of interest to policymakers and educators is the impact of nontraditional curricula, including global health education, on eventual physician location. We sought to measure the association between graduate medical education in global health and subsequent care of the underserved in the United States.

METHODS:

In 2005, we surveyed 137 graduates of a family medicine program with one of the country's longest-running international health tracks (IHTs). We compared graduates of the IHT, those in the traditional residency track, and graduates prior to IHT implementation, assessing the anticipated and actual involvement in care of rural and other underserved populations, physician characteristics, and practice location and practice population.

RESULTS:

IHT participants were more likely to practice abroad and care for the underserved in the United States in the first 5 years following residency than non-IHT peers. Their current practices were more likely to be in underserved settings and they had higher percentages of uninsured and non-English-speaking patients. Comparisons between pre-IHT and post-IHT inception showed that in the first 5 years following residency, post-IHT graduates were more likely to care for the underserved and practice in rural areas and were likely to offer volunteer community health care services but were not more likely to practice abroad or to be in an academic practice.

CONCLUSIONS:

Presence of an IHT was associated with increased care of underserved populations. After the institution of an IHT track, this association was seen among IHT participants and nonparticipants and was not associated with increased long-term service abroad.

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