Background The maldistribution of physicians in the United States is a serious health care problem. There is a physician shortage in both rural and urban medically underserved areas (MUAs). In 2002, there was an estimated 56 million people living in more than 3,100 MUAs across the United States.
Objective A literature review to identify variables that help predict physician's likelihood to practice in a MUA. To initiate the development of a survey for a quantitative study to determine the reasons why physicians choose to practice in MUAs.
Method A literature review for physician practicing in underserved areas was conducted using the PubMed database. The MeSH terms used for the search included “professional practice,” “underserved,” and “United States.”
Results As a result of the review, the nine core components were selected for the survey:demographics, altruism, cross-cultural experience, community service experience, medical school/residency exposure to underserved populations, family considerations, religious beliefs, financial incentive programs, and financial debt at completion of training.
Conclusion The most frequently studied variables in the literature are demographics, medical school/residency exposure to underserved, financial incentive programs, and background experiences, and others, such as altruism and religious beliefs, were less common. The unique motivating factors that lead physicians to work with the underserved have yet to be identified. This project has laid the foundation for the development of a large quantitative study to address what these motivating factors are. The study will provide medical schools and health care policy officials with the tools to recruit and retain physicians who practice in MUAs.
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