Primary care examined

By Cara Miller

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Kimberly Smith has always wanted to be a primary care doctor.

But other medical students are not as sure about their future.

As part of the National Primary Care Day yesterday, the University of Arizona brought four local doctors to discuss the growing need for primary care doctors to give students an idea of what is involved in a primary care profession.

Family practitioner and UA alumnus Carlos Gonzales said primary care doctors have to be ready for anything.

"You might treat a man who is dehydrated, then a baby with a rash, and after that a young lady with bad cholesterol, and you have to be able to diagnose each of these," he said. "That is what family medicine is about."

For Wendy Lorenzen, a first-year medical student, these challenges are part of what attracts her to primary medicine.

"Primary care is much more challenging than specialty work," she said. "You won't be seing the same thing twice a day."

But Lorenzen said her main interest is being able to develop a relationship with patients.

Dr. Alan Rogers, an internal medicine doctor and part of yesterday's panel, said he agreed and that students need to take a look at their personality to see if they are suited for primary care.

"If you have the personality, go into primary care," he said. "If not, be a pathologist."

The idea for National Primary Care Day orginated from medical students who wanted to raise awareness of general practice, correct misconceptions that might prevent students from choosing careers in primary care, and highlight the efforts medical schools are making in those areas.

Pre-med students from Arizona State University and Northern

Arizona University also attended to gain more information.

ASU student John Peterson, who is in the medical school application process, said he became interested in primary care after working in Alaska.

"Little towns like that are desperate for health care," he said. "If the town has one doctor it's a big deal."

Looking toward the future, the panelists are certain more emphasis will be put on primary care providers including an increase in income as well as prestige.

"Primary care is going to be more and more in control of medical resources," Rogers said. "And that's the way it should be."

While students were receptive to the idea of primary care, most are still weighing their options.

"It is hard to find somebody that isn't keeping their options open," said Dave Hardin, a first-year medical student.

While Lorenzen said she was not committed to the idea of primary care, she is not ruling it out.

"I'm sort of a blank slate," she said. "I haven't practiced this yet, so I don't really know, but I think the rewards outweigh the disadvantages."

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