Practice Area Intentions of Graduates of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine: What Role Does Debt Play?

Jesse R. Richards, DO; Caleb J. Scheckel, DO; Matt Kunz; Jessica R. Newman, DO; Kenneth G. Poole, MD, MBA; and Lanyu Mi, MS
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: October 27, 2017

Accepted: November 14, 2017

Published: June 1, 2018

J Osteopath Med; 118(6): 384-388

Context: Enrollment in colleges of osteopathic medicine continues to increase, as does the need for physicians practicing in underserved areas. The cost of osteopathic medical education is substantial, with students often incurring debt of $200,000 or more. It is unclear whether practice patterns of new graduates will be affected by debt-to-income ratios.

Objectives: To determine whether the intended practice location of graduates of colleges of osteopathic medicine is associated with medical education debt.

Methods: Using data from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine’s annual survey to graduates of colleges of osteopathic medicine, the authors focused on graduates’ intention to practice in an underserved area, the amount of debt incurred, and plans to enter a loan-repayment program. Survey data from 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016 were analyzed.

Results: From 2007 to 2016, the percentage of graduates who intended to practice in underserved areas increased (27.5% to 35.3%, respectively). Graduates with the most debt intended to practice in underserved areas at a higher percentage than those with the least amount of debt, and they also planned on using loan-repayment programs at a higher rate.

Conclusions: There is a strong association among the intention to practice in an underserved area, high debt load, and intention to use a loan-repayment program. Therefore, the osteopathic medical community should support increased access to loan-repayment programs to help its graduates surmount economic and social barriers to providing care in underserved areas.

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