Surprise, Surprise. Primary Care Doesn’t Pay Very Well

No news here, except for the crushing debt burden our medical students face. 86% have some debt at graduation, averaging $161,000. A group from Boston and the AAMC did a number of calculations using financial planning software. They found that a medical student with the average debt and standard repayment plan could (barely) achieve a middle-class lifestyle if they elect to go into primary care. Those with a debt burden of $250,000 or more (15% of graduates) would have a negative cash flow in their 30’s if they elect a primary care specialty and use the standard repayment plan. Graduates who elect a highly-paid subspecialty, under most assumptions, have about $3,000 a month more disposable income than those who elect to go into primary care. Politicians, please stop wondering why we have a shortage of primary care physicians! — Laura Willett, MD

Youngclaus JA, et al. Can medical students afford to choose primary care? An economic analysis of physician education debt repayment. Acad Med. 2013 Jan;88(1):16-25.

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