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Acad Med. 1996 Sep;71(9):941-9.

"Bimodal" medical schools: excelling in research and primary care.

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Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California, School of Medicine, San Francisco 94143-0410, USA.

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  • Acad Med 1996 Dec;71(12):1313.


The authors studied four "bimodal" medical schools--those ranked in the top 20% by the Association of American Medical Colleges both in production of primary care physicians and in receiving research grants from the National Institutes of Health. A descriptive, anthropologic method was used to describe the cultures of these schools and to determine common factors in their success. The four schools are at the University of Washington, the University of North Carolina, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of California, San Diego. These common factors ranged from characteristics of the schools to characteristics of their external environments. All four are part of large, state-supported universities. They are relatively new schools in areas of the country that have blossomed in biotechnology, aerospace, and computer industries. The schools' missions, admission committees, and educational programs reflect their dual role: to meet the health care needs of their states and to advance basic science knowledge in medicine. Each state has a strong Academy of Family Practice, and the medical schools have been in the forefront of residency training in this specialty. Federal- and state-funded Area Health Education Centers and private foundations have provided seed money for educational programs in community and rural settings that attract medical students to primary care. Research-intensive medical schools can encourage students to enter primary care specialties if they have strong primary care leaders and programs and if they support medical education programs outside the academic, tertiary-care center. A culture of mutual respect and commitment to community service is also essential to achieving this bimodal success.

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