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Year : 2003  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 279-285

''Where Have All the Students Gone?'' Retaining Medical School Graduates through Educational Innovations

1 Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, New Mexico, USA
2 Area Health Education Center, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, New Mexico, USA
3 Program Evaluation, Education, and Research, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, New Mexico, USA

Correspondence Address:
Brian Solan
2400 Tucker NE, Albuquerque, NM 87131
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

Context: New Mexico is a sparsely populated rural state in the USA, with 20% of New Mexicans living in poverty. There is a need for physicians in the state, especially in primary care. New Mexico's only medical school, the University of New Mexico School of Medicine is state supported. New Mexico and its medical school have a vested interest in its graduates returning to the state to practice. Objectives: Evaluate the effects of early community preceptorships on graduating physicians' specialty choice and subsequent return to practice in the state where they attended medical school. Strategies: A Primary Care Curriculum (PCC) was introduced into the medical school in 1979. Students expressing interest in this programme were considered. Twenty students per year were assigned to the PCC. The remainder went through the traditional curriculum. The PCC used a problem-based learning model. All PCC students participated in a 16-week, one-on-one community preceptorship (Phase 1B) in a small or rural community during their first year. Graduates from 1983-1996 were analysed for specialty and practice location. Main outcomes: Of the 294 students doing Phase 1B, 99 (40%) returned to New Mexico to practice compared to 221 (32%) of traditional students. Fifty-eight (23%) of the Phase 1B students practice primary care compared to 112 (16%) of the traditional students. Conclusion: Self-selected students choosing and participating in early community-based clinical experiences coupled with problem-based learning are more likely to return to the state and to practice primary care.

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