Why (not) Family Medicine? Kyle Hoedebecke MD, MBA, MSL, CKTP

Why (not) Family Medicine? is a series of posts from health care thought leaders, both inside and outside of Family Medicine. These will be posted every Friday. The participants were asked to focus on whatever they wanted in response to this question. We are glad that so many of these impressive leaders were willing to participate, and we hope that you enjoy their responses!

I recently had the pleasure of participating in a medical exchange fellowship through MEDICC to Havana, Cuba where I continually heard the refrain that “Cubans live like the poor and die like the rich.”  For a country that is considered to be among the poorest in the Americas, I was shocked to see that – as of 2012 – a Cuban’s life expectancy of 79.07 years outperformed that of the US at 78.74.

How is this possible?!?  Two words – Family Medicine!

With the rare exception, every single Cuban doctor who graduates first becomes a family physician.  That’s right – every one!

This just emphasizes the true importance of a health care system that employs Family Medicine as its cornerstone.  The literature also identifies primary care  as a means to ensure a more equitable distribution of medical resources – a stat that does NOT hold true for specialty care.  More specifically, each additional general practitioner or family physician per 10,000 population boasts an associated 6 percent decrease in mortality (Gulliford 2002).  The results of this article and additional current literature suggest that up to 127,617 deaths per year in the United States alone could be avoided by optimizing the number of family physicians in our communities (Macinko, Starfield, and Shi 2005).

As the US health system continues to evolve, advocate for the specialty that has a proven track record of improving our health outcomes here and around the world.  Choose prevention, choose community, choose FAMILY MEDICINE!

Kyle Hoedebecke MD, MBA, MSL, CKTP is an Assistant Professor in Family Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He is also the co-founder and Chair of WONCA Polaris, an international group of new and future family physicians that promotes Family Medicine across the Americas.

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