Why Family Medicine?

My Family
My Family

Why Family Medicine?

It is a very satisfying field, particularly if you love building relationships with patients and their families. I’ve gotten to treat both parents and their kids. I’ve even got to take care of a pregnant woman, deliver her baby, then take care of both her newborn and herself post-partum. The range of practice is wide, and the variety of issues you’ll see is exciting. I’ve done things from skin biopsy procedures to psych med management. When my clinic patient gets admitted to the hospital, I continue treating him in the hospital. If he becomes home-bound, I treat him at home. I see patients when they are first born, and I see patients at the end of their lives. Everday is exciting, and you’ll never know who or what you’ll see day-to-day. We are trained to be very versatile practitioners.

How is the Job Market?

In terms of career opportunities, family med doctors are highly sought after. In fact, surveys have shown that it is the top sought after specialty by medical employers. Check out this Forbes article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2013/08/31/the-10-most-in-demand-career-specialties-in-health-care/ . There will always be a need for primary care physicians wherever you go. People will come to you first whenever they have a medical issue or if they simply want a regular check up or get advice. Down here in Georgia, I can definitely see the demand for family practitioners. The third year residents finishing our program get tons of offers all the time, and they get jobs in all settings: inpatient hospitalist, urgent care, outpatient, and combination in and outpatient. Some go to bigger cities like Atlanta and others go to small towns like Forsyth, Georgia, and become the town doctor, without competition.

Can You Sub-specialize?

Some students may have a misconception that one cannot sub-specialize as a family practitioner. However, this is certainly not true and there are actually quite a few choices for fellowships you can do after family medicine residency. Just in my program alone, we have a Geriatrics as well as a Palliative Medicine Fellowship program, and because of this, many of my family medicine attendings are Geriatricians and Palliative specialists. There is a growing demand for sub-specialties like Geriatrics or Palliative Medicine, especially with the quickly aging population in this country. Some of my specialist attendings are medical directors at nursing homes as well as hospices. In the hospital setting, geriatric consults are often sought for elderly patients to deal with issues like polypharmacy, delerium, and age-related dose adjustments for medications. And for those with poor prognosis or uncontrolled pain, palliative consults are often sought for determining goals of care, providing comfort, and terminal weaning when appropriate. Because palliative care is about improving the quality of end-of-life care rather than prolonging death with expensive, aggressive treatments, many hospitals are now finding that they can save a lot of money and resources by having a palliative service. Because of this, palliative medicine is in big demand throughout the country. AAFP has a Fellowship Directory that lists these fellowships available to family medicine residency graduates:

  • Adolescent Medicine
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Academic Medicine
  • Geriatrics
  • Hospice and Palliative Care
  • Hospitalist Medicine
  • Integrative Medicine
  • Global Health
  • Obstetrics
  • Preventive Medicine
  • Research
  • Rural Medicine
  • Sports Medicine
  • Substance Abuse Medicine
  • Urgent Care
  • Women’s Health
  • Others:
    • Headache Medicine
    • Behavioral Health
    • Community Medicine
    • Super-utilizer Medicine – For those not familiar with the term, “super-utilizers” are patients who suffer from multiple complex, chronic issues who are often also in difficult social situations that cause them to overuse emergency departments and inpatient admissions. They cost the health care system a lot of money and resources. I think it’s interesting that super-utilizers have become such an issue that an institute has decided to make a fellowship out of it.
    • HIV
    • Neuromuscular Medicine
    • Neuropsychiatry
    • Underserved Dermatology
    • Wilderness Medicine
    • Intensive Care

How Do I Decide?

When I was deciding on my specialty, I had several in mind, but I ultimately went with my heart, my intuition, in what I feel I would enjoy the most, and what I would be most fitting for. I chose family medicine and have no regrets.