Family physicians are frontline workers promoting wellness — and they ’ re needed more than ever
WRITTEN BY CINDY SCHWEICH HANDLER
Preventing illnesses before they start extends lives and keeps health care costs down . Family medicine physicians , who routinely see patients throughout their lives — and often multiple generations of the same families — play a key role in keeping communities healthy .
According to a 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association , just having a primary care doctor in the community extends its members ’ lives by an average 57 days or longer , says Dr . Sterling Ransone , president of the American Academy of Family Physicians . Research shows that patients trust their primary care doctors to give them honest answers ; a recent study found that having a primary care doctor in the community leads to higher vaccination rates . The good news is that , with a growing elderly population in America and the Affordable Care Act expanding coverage , the number of residencies for training family physicians has been growing over the last decade . The bad news is that there aren ’ t enough willing candidates to fill them . By 2034 , Ransone says , the country may be short an estimated 48,000 primary care doctors . There are many reasons for this , among them lower pay for longer hours of work at a time when medical student debt has soared . But the family medicine practitioners in Bergen we spoke to wouldn ’ t be doing anything else . To them , the rewards of being family physicians outweigh the challenges . Here , they tell us why .