Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Doctors Who Don't See Patients
I wish someone would do a study on how many doctors complete medical school but never go into any type of patient care practice. I suspect the number is higher than we think.
I was at an upscale art party last weekend, filled with beautiful art and beautiful young people. I sat next to an attractive "early thirty-something" woman, confident and well dressed. She mentioned that her business partner was friends with the host and when I asked her what the business was, she said she was starting a "pharmaceutical business".
That certainly got my attention. Starting a pharmaceutical business? That is hardly what I think of as a "start-up". I made a few more inquiries, "Are you doing R&D? What types of drugs are you focused on?" She didn't answer my questions but proudly told me, "Oh, I am a physician." She trained in nephrology (kidney specialist) at UCSF...graduated...and now is starting a pharmaceutical business. She's never seen patients since her training.
The conversation didn't go much further but it did make me think about how many young physicians I know that do not see patients at all, but parlay their medical degree into some type of business venture.
It seems like a medical degree is becoming like a law degree. Very few attorneys actually see the inside of a court room or defend people against injustice. Are fewer young doctors actually seeing sick patients?
I can think of about two dozen young physicians that I know, who have left patient care completely over the past 10 years. Some started medical related business, some are in real estate, some joined pharmaceutical companies, some just retired to stay home with the kids. One teaches dance and one does a little moonlighting.
I keep up with the journals but have not seen this question addressed in any studies. Where do medical graduates go? How many stay in patient care vs. other aspects of medicine like research or teaching? How many "retire" early? How many start a "little pharmaceutical business"?
In this day of physician shortage, it is a question that needs an answer.
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