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Harvard to invest in primary care

October 28, 2010

The Boston Globe has this story today- Harvard Medical School plans to spend 30 million dollars on boosting the profile of primary care doctors.

The money comes from an anonymous donor.  It will been spent on creating an entire center  devoted to training family doctors, internists, and general practitioners.  According to the article-

The center will pay part of the salaries for 20 to 30 faculty, oversee expansion of the curriculum in primary care, and fund research and experiments to test new models of providing primary care. The school hopes to recruit a renowned national leader in the field to head the center, which Harvard planned to announce today. It will open over the next few months.

Primary care doctors have been the underdogs in our health care system for years.  They get paid less than specialists and often work longer hours, making their jobs an unattractive choice for medical students.  Why slave away as a family doctor when you can pay your student loans faster as a dermatologist?

But primary care often means preventative care that is less expensive than an untreated condition in an emergency room.  Studies show that parts of the country with more general practioners have lower costs and offer more effective care.

Also, what happens when the health care overhaul kicks in in 2014 and all Americans must have health insurance?  That means they’ll need a primary care doctor too.  If the Massachusetts health reform experiment is any indication, it’s unlikely we’ll have enough of these doctors to go around.  Thus, this new push for primary care doctors.

I did a feature on this issue earlier in the year (before health reform passed) and a follow up story about Rhode Island’s experiments with “patient centered medical homes”- another attempt to make primary care more effective and more appealing to doctors.

The hope is this new Harvard center will raise the prestige of primary care doctors.  What do you think? Will a  little Ivy League attention make a difference?


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