National Changes in Physician Supply

Research center:
Lead researcher:
Project funded:
September 1999
Project completed:
February 2008
This study describes the 2005 supply and distribution of physicians (including osteopathic physicians and international medical graduates) with particular emphasis on generalists in rural areas. Data sources were the AMA and AOA 2005 Masterfiles Rural-Urban Commuting Area codes were used to categorize practice locations. The study found uneven rural-urban distribution of physicians and wide variation among rural locations. Conditions nationally were not necessarily representative of those at Census Division or state level. Generalists were the mainstay of physician care in rural areas, becoming more prominent as degree of rurality increased, while the specialist/population ratio generally decreased as rural locations become smaller and more isolated. Osteopaths and international medical graduates made substantial contributions to health care in rural areas, although their relative representation varied geographically. The decline in the number of U.S. medical students entering family medicine residencies, greater difficulty for non-U.S. physicians to obtain visas to work in the U.S., and reductions in Title VII funding, among other issues, threaten to further reduce the supply of rural generalist physicians, potentially hindering access to health care in rural locations. This study is complete and a copy of the Final Report and Policy Brief are available from the WWAMI RHRC website.