Reality Check: Surgeon Shortage Looms

There have been many in the medical blogosphere who have (correctly) predicted the soon-to-be disaster of a shortage of primary care physicians. I, of course, agree with my primary care and family physician brethren on this point.

Well, now, there is new data from the University of Washington stating that General Surgery as a specialty is soon going to be in a world of hurt because - frankly, there are no medical students going into it. Obviously, this is part of the super-specialty revolution where generalists - whether they be general medicine physicians or general surgery physicians - are going to be more rare.

I find it ironically funny (in some strange way) that the quote below used to describe the shortage for general surgeons is vaguely familiar and kind of deja vu like when I remember why medical students are not choosing primary care:

Young doctors put a higher value on their personal lives, making fields that require frequent and unpredictable hospital duties less attractive, said Dr. Dana Lynge, a general surgeon and lead author of the study from the UW. In addition, he said, many students leave medical training with a "mountain of debt" in school loans. By necessity, they are looking for careers that will help them get out of the hole. The combination of less-demanding fields and more lucrative payoffs draws students away from general surgery.
We're definitely feeling this in our small little community in Northeastern Ohio. When there is a demand like this, students who actually choose general surgery can go wherever they want. Why would they want to come to NE Ohio? So, recruiting new docs (in all specialties) has been difficult and will be difficult.

So, to the leaders of the general surgery specialty, all I can say is "I feel your pain" and "Welcome to my world." If you figure out a way to somehow increase the supply of general surgeons, let me know, because I'll "steal" your techniques to try to increase the primary care physician workforce. Because without primary care PHYSICIANS (not just primary care "providers"), general surgeons (and other specialties) will have no referral base. How 'bout them apples!