Primary care gets needed attention at activities event

By Raya Tahan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

In order to draw attention to the nation's need for primary care physicians, UA medical students organized National Primary Care Day activities last week.

National Primary Care Day was launched in 1994 by medical students who wished to correct misconceptions that might prevent students from choosing careers in primary care, said UMC official George Humphrey.

Humphrey said that ideally, half of all doctors should be in general practice, as was the case 25 years ago. Since then, however, the nation's supply of general internists, general pediatricians and family practitioners has been reduced to 30 percent.

UA Primary Care Day organizer Gregg Tolliver is a third-year medical student who would like to provide general medicine in an urban, under-served area.

"A generalist looks at the whole person," Tolliver said. "I love the variety . being able to take care of an old man and deliver a baby. I can take care of someone their whole life and take care of their whole family."

Tolliver said there is sometimes an attitude at medical schools that generalists are less than specialists in that they receive less prestige and are paid less.

"There is a cultural ideal that technology can fix anything," Tolliver said.

Myths about general physicians are also discouraging, he said. Such myths include that generalists are expected to know too much and not do research.

Microbiology and pre-med senior Leandro Arechederra said he plans to specialize in general surgery.

"I just feel that surgery goes best with my personality. I identify a problem, evaluate it, plan some form of attack, execute an attack, then evaluate it. That's consistent with the procedures for surgery."

Arechederra said he would like to go into general surgery, however, because he does see a need for generalists in this country.

Tolliver said, "The generalist-specialist balance is a complex one. No one in medicine pushes any student to go into anything if that's not what they love to do."

Humphrey said national statistics show that medical students' interests in primary care are increasing.

"We've been lucky to have support at UMC from student, faculty and administration," Tolliver said. "It's unusual because medical schools do not have too much generalist support."

The week's activities began Tuesday with a primary care provider diversity panel that included a midwife, a nurse practitioner, a social worker and a pharmacist.

On Wednesday, a legislative session was held with Senator Tom Patterson, R-Phoenix, and Representative Jorge Luis Garcia, D-Tucson.

Yesterday, a keynote address and panel discussion, titled, "Primary Health Care: The Essential Ingredient", were held. They were followed by an information fair and reception at the Arizona Health Sciences Center Plaza.

"It was fantastic," Tolliver said. "They were really quality events."

He appreciated that the students, faculty and administration rallied together is support of primary care.

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