Published January 6, 2017
For many adults, going to the doctor means going to see a general internist, who provides primary and specialty care to adult patients.
But ironically, as the need for internal medicine physicians is growing, fewer medical school graduates are choosing the specialty. According to the Society for General Internal Medicine (SGIM), the percentage of medical residents who planned to enter the field fell from more than 50 percent in 1998 to about 20 percent in the past few years.
Now, faculty in the Department of Medicine at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB who teach and practice general internal medicine are participating in a national effort launched by SGIM to boost the field’s profile among medical school students and residents.
The faculty recently received a grant from the SGIM to help them promote the field.
“The purpose of the #ProudtobeGIM campaign that SGIM has launched is to encourage and teach residents and students about careers in general internal medicine,” says Janet Sundquist, clinical associate professor in the Department of Medicine and a general internal medicine physician with UBMD Internal Medicine.
Locally, the campaign will focus on social events with faculty, residents and students, and on using social media to highlight the accomplishments of medical students, residents and faculty in general internal medicine.
“Informal contact with faculty allows trainees the chance to talk about careers in a low-stakes environment,” Sundquist says. “Our focus on wellness and the interests that physicians have outside of medicine lets us reach trainees who don’t identify as already interested in a career in internal medicine but who might find it’s right for them once they’ve had more exposure to it.”
These events also can help strengthen connections among faculty members and with SGIM, which can help promote professional wellness and combat burnout.
Sundquist and colleagues from UB became interested in the #ProudtobeGIM campaign at the organization’s meeting last spring, where faculty, students and residents from programs around the country presented what they were doing to promote the field. “We asked ourselves, ‘why not UB?’” Sundquist says. “The chance to work with our national specialty society in a promotional campaign gives exposure to the work people are doing here at UB and, we hope, inspires more of us to share our work nationally.
“UB’s medical school has a large and growing Division of General Internal Medicine, but we are spread out among many different roles and locations, and have not traditionally had a strong group identity and presence,” she continues. “The #ProudtobeGIM campaign offers us a chance to more cohesively present what we do in order to engage UB students and residents about opportunities in the field of general internal medicine, both locally and nationally.”
Another key advantage is that UB gains access to the national conversation with other institutions working to promote the field of general internal medicine.
“UB is a great institution for SGIM to partner with because we have tremendous unrealized potential to contribute nationally,” Sundquist explains. “We have many new, young faculty and we’re building a dramatic, new medical school building downtown and we have tremendous resources.”
She says some of those resources that have special potential for general internal medicine include the medical school’s preventive medicine program and a partnership with the UB School of Public Health and Health Professions, as well as major, new research funding focused on addressing health disparities in Buffalo with the Clinical and Translational Science Award.