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South Med J. 2018 Dec;111(12):763-766. doi: 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000000898.

Demographic and Practice Characteristics of Physicians Who Care for Medically Underserved People: A National Survey.

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From the Saint James School of Medicine, Park Ridge, Illinois, the Department of Health Services Research and Administration, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, Ripon College, Ripon, Wisconsin, and the Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.



Few national studies have examined the influence of role models as a potential predictor for caring for medically underserved (MUS) patients. This study tested associations between previous physician role model exposure and caring for MUS populations, as well as examines the practice environments of these physicians.


Between October and December 2011, we mailed a confidential questionnaire to a representative sample of 2000 US physicians from various specialties. The primary criterion variable was "Is your patient population considered medically underserved?" We assessed demographic and other personal characteristics (calling, spirituality, and reporting a familial role model). We also asked about their practice characteristics, including a validated measure that assessed whether their work environment was considered chaotic/hectic or calm.


The survey response rate was 64.5% (1289/2000). Female physicians and African American physicians were more likely to report working in MUS settings (multivariate odds ratio [OR] 1.32, confidence interval [CI] 1.00-1.76 and OR 2.65, CI 1.28-5.46, respectively). Physicians with high spirituality (OR 1.69, CI 1.02-2.79) and who reported familial role model exposure (OR 1.91, CI 1.11-3.30) also were associated with working with MUS populations. Physicians who worked in academic medical centers (OR 1.93, CI 1.45-2.56) and in chaotic work environments (OR 3.25, CI 1.64-6.44) also were more likely to report working with MUS patients.


Familial role models may be influencing physicians to work with MUS patients, but the quality of their current work environments raises concerns about the long-term retention of physicians in MUS settings.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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