July 10, 2018

Community colleges can boost physician diversity and access to primary care


Medical school graduates who attended community college are more likely to select family medicine for their residency training and to be from groups traditionally underrepresented in medicine, new UC Davis Health research shows.

Published in the Annals of Family Medicine, the results lead the study authors to recommend strengthening medical school outreach and mentorship at the community-college level to increase physician diversity and access to primary care.

Efrain Talamantes
Efrain Talamantes promotes mentorship for community college students who are interested in medical school.

While medical school diversity has increased, it hasn’t kept pace with the growing diversity of patients. Overall population growth and health insurance expansion also have increased the need for doctors who practice family medicine, general internal medicine or pediatrics.

“If we want to expand the primary care workforce together with culturally competent care, we need to focus more on community college as an important pathway to medical school,” said lead author Efrain Talamantes, an internal medicine physician and co-director of the Center for a Diverse Healthcare Workforce at UC Davis.

Talamantes and his colleagues wanted to know if early-career physicians who attended community college prior to medical school were more likely to select certain specialties over others. To find out, they evaluated Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) records and demographics for more than 40,000 second-year medical residents nationwide who graduated from medical school between 2010 and 2012.

About a quarter of all medical school graduates included in the study attended community college during high school, right after high school or following graduation from a four-year college. Medical school graduates who attended community college were more likely than those who didn't to select family medicine for their residency training. They also were more likely to be women, black or Latino.

It isn’t clear from the study why family medicine physicians, beyond other primary care fields, were more likely to have attended community college. These physicians are distinguished, according to Talamantes, for their commitments to improving community health and primary care.

“It’s possible that students with strong community ties are more comfortable with the skills required of a family medicine practitioner as well as with the community college atmosphere,” Talamantes said. “Exploring the characteristics of medical students who attend community college would be valuable to those seeking to further increase the primary care workforce.”

Additional authors were Anthony Jerant, Mark Henderson, Erin Griffin, Tonya Fancher and senior author Peter Franks of UC Davis Health; Douglas Grbic of the AAMC; and Gerardo Moreno of UCLA.

Their study, titled “Community College Pathways to Medical School and Family Medicine Residency Training,” was funded by the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (grant UH1HP29965).

More information about UC Davis Health is at health.ucdavis.edu.