The primary care physician shortage in the United States is one of the biggest challenges currently facing the healthcare system. Research projects a shortage of more than 33,000 physicians by 2035. With a population that is growing but also getting older as people are living longer, it’s important for medical schools to train physicians who will meet these healthcare needs. If you’re interested in pursuing primary care as a family physician, the good news is that you can do so no matter where you go to medical school. During your years in medical school, you’ll have the opportunity to rotate through several primary care specialties and decide if this is the right career for you. According to the American Association of Family Physicians, some of the characteristics of a medical school that’s focused on family medicine include: a school mission that addresses producing community doctors to provide primary care, clinical rotations, including electives that emphasize positive experiences in family medicine early in the curricular structure, and strong family medicine interest groups (FMIGs) and leadership opportunities for students. If you’re looking for the best schools for family practice, we’ve combined 10 allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) schools that have achieved the greatest percentage of graduates going into family medicine residencies in the last few years, according to institutionally-reported data.
[ RELATED: Browse MCAT Class and Test Options by State ]
Although only 1 Duke medical student matched with family medicine residencies in 2019, Duke’s family medicine department is highly esteemed and extremely rigorous. Students interested in family medicine have the opportunity to participate in the Primary Care Leadership Track, which includes starting a longitudinal clerkship in their second year in which they care for pregnant mothers and deliver babies, do research in community health, and serve in a community health agency. There are three 2-week family medicine clinical selectives available for second-year students and 9 clinical science electives and sub-internships available for fourth-year students. Interested students can also participate in the Family Medicine Interest Group, a student-run organization that works closely with Duke’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health to organize social events, discussions, and procedural and skills nights for family medicine students. Students accepted in 2019 had an average MCAT score of 520 (the full range was 513-525) and an average GPA of 3.8 (full range: 3.6-4.0).
OHSU has a robust family medicine department, and students have many opportunities for family medicine clinical experience starting officially in their clerkship year. Family medicine is one of the mandatory core clerkship experiences, and it gives students foundational experience relating to five aspects of family medicine: access to care, continuity of care, comprehensiveness of care, coordination of care, and contextual care. Students are placed in a family physician’s practice, which may be in a hospital, smaller office, nursing home, or may consist of home visits. In addition to the core family medicine clerkship, OHSU has ten 4-week electives and three 2-week electives available for those interested in studying family medicine more deeply. There are also four available 4-week subinternships in which fourth-year medical students will spend two weeks in an inpatient setting and two weeks in an OHSU outpatient clinic caring for geriatrics, children, adults, and pregnancy. In 2019, 19 students matched with family medicine residencies. Estimated averages for the entering class at OHSU are an average total undergraduate GPA of 3.65 and an average MCAT score of 509.
In 2019, 69 UCSF School of Medicine students matched with primary care residencies, including family medicine. There are is a variety of family medicine electives available, such as Anesthesiology + Preoperative Care, Harm Reduction + Addiction Medicine, and Houseleness and Health Inequalities. Between students’ 1st and 2nd years of medical school, they can elect to participate in a 4-week preceptorship or project in family or community medicine. Following these electives and summer opportunities, students complete a clerkship in family medicine and, if they wish, a fourth-year sub-internship experience in family medicine. The Sub-1 experience takes place at one of a number of California hospitals and can be focused on an area of the student’s interest. Students can also choose from other domestic and international elective rotations on family medicine sub-topics of their choosing. The average GPA for admitted students in 2019 was 3.8 and the average MCAT score percentile ranking was 94.
The incoming CU Medical School 2018 class had an average undergraduate GPA of 3.76 and an average MCAT score of 511. The total medical school enrollment is 722, and 26 medical students matched with family medicine residencies in 2019. Students have access to a wide range of family medicine resources, beginning with 1st, 2nd, and 4th phase electives on topics such as Oral Health: Acute Dental, Primary Sports Care Medicine, and create-your-own elective options. Students then complete one of two 2nd year family medicine clerkships: the first is an 8-week clerkship focusing on community and primary care, and the second is a 16-week longitudinal medicine clerkship focusing on both hospitalized adult care and primary care. Interested students can complete a family medicine phase 4 sub-internship with an emphasis on hospitalized adults, pregnant parents and newborns. UC Medical School partners with almost every family medicine residency in Colorado, so students have lots of options for where to complete their 4-week sub-internship. CU students also complete a mentored scholarly activity as an introduction to research in primary care.
[ Learn more about University of Colorado School of Medicine ]
The University of Michigan Medical School matched 9 medical students to family medicine residencies in 2019. Family medicine is one of the required core clerkships for each medical student, and it has been since 1996. Students focus on providing ambulatory care in community-based outpatient settings for a variety of patients. The average undergraduate GPA for the incoming class in 2019 was 3.78, and the average MCAT score percentile was 90.77.
With a strong focus on primary care in rural Minnesota communities, Native American health, and family medicine, it’s no wonder that just under 20% of University of Minnesota seniors pursued family medicine residencies. The Rural Physician Associate Program at the school is a nine-month, community-based educational experience for third-year medical students. You’ll get to live and train in the rural communities you’ll serve and be a valued member of the community. You’ll also have the unique opportunity to see patients more than once and become an important part of patients’ lives. The 2019 incoming class of 305 students (the school has a campus in Twin Cities and in Duluth) had an average GPA of 3.71 and an average MCAT score of 508.2.
While students at many other U.S. medical schools have little or no clinical experience in their first two years, UNM students have direct patient contact from the outset that includes a Clinical Skills Course, Continuity Clinics, an eight-week summer Practical Immersion Experience in rural and urban communities across New Mexico, and participation in Albuquerque student-run clinics, including the Immigrant Clinic and Clinic for the Homeless. The Albuquerque, New Mexico school welcomes a class of around 100. Accepted applicants in 2019 had an average GPA of 3.74 and an average MCAT score of 506. Almost 21% of UNM students pursue family medicine residencies.
The UNC School of Medicine has a special program for students interested in careers in family medicine and service to underserved communities. FIRST (Fully Integrated Readiness for Service Training) is a 3-year medical school fast track program with conditional acceptance to a North Carolina family medicine residency program. When medical students who are accepted to FIRST finish their three-year medical degree and residency, they’re matched with a loan repayment plan that requires them to practice family medicine for three years in an underserved community in North Carolina. For students who aren’t accepted to or aren’t interested in the FIRST program, there are still plenty of opportunities to gain experience in family medicine. In addition to electives, students can participate in a family medicine Acting Internship, a 4-week rotation working on Family Medicine Inpatient Service and Maternal Child Health Service. 10 UNC medical students matched with family medicine residencies in 2019. According to the school, in-state applicants should have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.2 and a minimum MCAT score of 500 to be competitive. For out-of-state applicants, the school considers applicants with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.59 and a minimum MCAT score of 514 to be competitive.
In addition to its many available courses and clerkship opportunities, UW’s Department of Family Medicine and the Family Medicine Residency Network have carefully developed a family medicine sub-internship for UW and visiting medical students so that students can get a feel for what a residency in family medicine is like. Students can complete this sub-internship at a variety of inpatient and outpatient clinics and hospitals throughout Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. The Department of Family Medicine also has two funded sub-internship spots available for students underrepresented in medicine. A whopping 45 UW medical students matched with family medicine residencies in 2019. With its larger class size of 270 entering MDs, UW School of Medicine received more than 9,000 applications, including more than 1500 from the states of Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho—a region the school prioritizes for admission (95% of each incoming class is from these five states on average). In 2019, the school had an 18.2% acceptance rate for in-region applicants and a 0.6% acceptance rate for out-of-region applicants.
Students at the UW-Madison School of Medicine have access to coursework and clinical work in family medicine starting early in their medical education. In addition to the common clerkship and elective options, students can apply for other opportunities unique to UW-Madison School of Medicine. There are two summer programs available to qualified students: the Peekskill New York Summer Externship and the Summer Research and Clinical Assistantship. Students participating in the externship will provide clinical care and outreach at Hudson River Health Care in New York for 4-6 weeks. This experience can be tailored to the interests and needs of the student. Students participating in the 4-week assistantship will engage in research projects with family medicine faculty. Additionally, students can volunteer with MEDiC, a student-run organization that provides free healthcare to underserved populations in the Madison area through 7 free clinics, or Doctors Ought to Care, an organization sponsored by UW-Madison that partners with middle and high schools to teach students about healthy lifestyles and safety. 35 UW-Madison students matched with family medicine residencies in 2019. The school’s 2019 incoming class had an average cumulative GPA of 3.74 and an average MCAT percentile of 86%.