2010 Study

Study Ranks Quillen College of Medicine First in the Nation for Producing Primary Care Physicians

A new study by a renowned professor of health policy ranks East Tennessee State University’s James H. Quillen College of Medicine as the top school in the nation for producing primary care physicians and 12th among U.S. medical schools on a “social mission” scale.

Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan, the study’s lead author, is a professor of health policy at George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services and the author of several books on medical practice and U.S. health policy. Formerly the U.S. assistant surgeon general, Mullan and researchers at George Washington examined the record of 141 medical schools in the United States and Puerto Rico in graduating physicians who will be able to meet the primary health care needs of an expected influx of newly insured patients.

The study, which is published in the June 15 edition of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, assigned a score to all medical schools based on their ability to meet a “social mission” defined by these criteria: producing physicians who practice primary care, who work in underserved areas, and are minorities.

The study showed that 53.5 percent of Quillen graduates went into primary care practice. ETSU and East Carolina University were the only two medical schools with more than half of graduates practicing primary care.

The findings bring attention to the role that medical schools play in determining the makeup of the U.S. physician workforce, Mullan said.

“Where doctors choose to work, and what specialty they select, are heavily influenced by medical school,” said Mullan, a pediatrician who is also a professor of medicine at George Washington’s medical school. “By recruiting minority students and prioritizing the training of primary care physicians and promoting practice in underserved areas, medical schools will help deliver the health care that Americans desperately need.”

The Quillen College of Medicine is consistently ranked high among medical schools for producing primary care physicians and for its rural medicine programs. Last month and for the second consecutive year, the American Academy of Family Physicians recognized Quillen as one of the top 10 schools in the nation for producing family medicine physicians. In April, U.S.News & World Report listed ETSU as sixth in the nation for rural medicine training.

“It’s exciting when Quillen is recognized for staying true to its roots,” said Dr. Philip C. Bagnell, dean of the College of Medicine. “A physician can experience a high degree of professional self-satisfaction practicing medicine in a rural community, and our curriculum is designed to illustrate that to our students.”

Key findings from the study include:

  • Public medical schools graduate higher proportions of primary care physicians than their private counterparts.
  • Historically black schools have the highest social mission rankings.
  • Meharry Medical College, located in Nashville and one of nation’s leading schools in producing African American physicians, had the second highest social mission score, making it and Quillen the only two Tennessee schools in the top 20.