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UND says it's tops in family medicine

GRAND FORKS - A larger proportion of medical students at UND enter family medicine than at any other medical school in the nation, the university said Tuesday.

Over three years ending in the fall of 2007, more than 20 percent of graduates went into family medicine, a field that Executive Dean Joshua Wynne said is struggling to attract new doctors.

"We've been able to buck the trend," he said. "If anything, it's been going in the other direction."

Nationally, only 7.4 percent of med school grads become family doctors.

The ranking came out of the American Academy of Family Physicians, which looked at 126 U.S. med schools.

Wynne noted that UND has about 55 med students, which is not large by national standards, so the ranking should be seen in that context. Nevertheless, he said, it does reflect the effort the university has put into producing more family doctors to serve residents of the state, especially those in rural areas where family doctors are scarce.

He said several factors are in play at UND, including the fact that some students come out of rural areas and are often most familiar with family doctors growing up.

In fact, some students are nurses and other specialists already working in rural areas who, under a special UND program, go back to school to become doctors. The university also has a program that places third year med students in rural practices, and the school puts a lot of emphasis on the field, according to Wynne.

Why fewer med students want to be family doctors probably has a lot to do with how busy such doctors can be, especially if they're the only doctors in their small towns, and how low reimbursements from insurers and Medicare are relative to more technical medical fields, according to Wynne, who's also a cardiologist at MeritCare in Fargo.

The reward, though, is family doctors are much more involved in the lives of their patients, often entire families, he said. It's rewarding, he said, ""to deliver a baby and be around to see that baby grow up and have babies of her own."

Tu-Uyen Tran
Tran is an enterprise reporter with the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began his newspaper career in 1999 as a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, now owned by Forum Communications. He began working for the Forum in September 2014. Tran grew up in Seattle and graduated from the University of Washington.
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