From Marcus Welby to Grey's Anatomy: The Next Generation

Darrell G. Kirch, MD


October 19, 2007


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In the next 20 years, 1 in 3 US doctors is likely to retire.[1]

The physicians following in their footsteps will take on the challenge of treating 71 million baby boomers.

How will this new generation of doctors -- a growing number of whom are women[2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11] -- approach the practice of medicine?

A recent survey of US physicians under age 50, conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the American Medical Association, offers some clues.

Young doctors of both genders view "quality of life" as essential, and are willing to risk career advancement to get it. For instance:

  • Seventy-one percent of those polled identify family and personal time as a very important factor in a desirable practice.

  • Two out of 3 young physicians say they are not interested in working longer hours for more money.

Thirteen percent of doctors under 50 currently work part time -- and an additional 32% would prefer part-time hours.[12]

If young physicians continue to work fewer hours than their predecessors, what impact will this have on our healthcare system?

Clearly, job sharing, part-time work, and flexible schedules must become more commonplace for doctors in the years to come.

Information technology, particularly electronic medical records and emails between physicians and patients, will need to be expanded in order to maintain continuity of care.

And medical education will need to focus on interdisciplinary training with nurses, pharmacists, and other health professions, as well as a more team-based approach to patient care.

As this generation of physicians leads by example and shows us that a work-life balance is possible for doctors, they provide us with an excellent opportunity for constructive change in how we practice medicine.

That's my opinion. I'm Dr. Darrell Kirch, President and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges.




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