Medical student intentions to practice internal medicine in underserved areas associated with debt, identity and extracurricular participation

Aaron Lapidus, Sapan Shah, Meheret Mekonnen, Joseph Araj, Mytien Nguyen, Hyacinth Mason, Branden Eggan, Inginia Genao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Currently, Internal Medicine (IM) physicians do not reflect the ethno-racial diversity of the US population. Moreover, there is a shortage of IM physicians in Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs) in the US. The purpose of this study was to determine factors that influence medical students’ intent to practice IM in MUAs. We hypothesized students with intentions to pursue a career in IM and work in MUAs were more likely than their peers to identify as underrepresented in medicine (URiM), report greater student debt loads, and report medical school experiences in cultural competencies. Methods: We analyzed de-identified data of 67,050 graduating allopathic medical students who completed the Association of American Medical Colleges’ (AAMC) Medical School annual Graduation Questionnaire (GQ) between 2012–2017 by multivariate logistic regression models, examining intent to practice IM in MUAs based on respondent characteristics. Results: Of 8,363 students indicating an intent to pursue IM, 1,969 (23.54%) students also expressed an intent to practice in MUAs. Students awarded scholarships, (aOR: 1.23, [1.03–1.46]), with debt greater than $300,000 (aOR: 1.54, [1.21–1.95], and self-identified non-Hispanic Black/African American (aOR: 3.79 [2.95–4.87]) or Hispanic (aOR: 2.53, [2.05–3.11]) students were more likely than non-Hispanic White students to indicate intent to practice in MUAs. This pattern also existed for students who participated in a community-based research project (aOR: 1.55, [1.19–2.01]), had experiences related to health disparities (aOR: 2.13, [1.44–3.15]), or had experiences related to global health (aOR: 1.75, [1.34–2.28]). Conclusions: We identified experiences and characteristics that associate with intention to practice IM in MUAs, which can aid future curricular redesign by medical schools to expand and deepen comprehension of health disparities, access to community-based research, and global health experiences. Loan forgiveness programs and other initiatives to increase recruitment and retention of future physicians should also be developed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number420
JournalBMC medical education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education

Cite this