Specialists are rewarded with higher status and income than primary care physicians, so it’s not surprising that most medical students these days do not aspire to become general doctors. But a new campaign called “proud to be GIM,” led by the Society for General Internal Medicine (SGIM), is helping young physicians get excited about choosing to go into general internal medicine. (Just what the country needs with its aging boomers!)

The broad array of topics in internal medicine and family practice that clinicians learn and keep up-to-date on is and should be a point of pride for primary care physicians. Yet only about 22% of internal medicine residents choose to specialize in general internal medicine, compared with 54% in 1998, according to the American College of Physicians (ACP).

The #ProudtobeGIM campaign, promoting a passion for primary care, just launched on Twitter, Facebook, conferences, and in physicians’ practices.

The campaign has two tasks:

  • educate medical students about a career in general internal medicine
  • equip #ProudtobeGIM participants with the tools and confidence they need to be unofficial spokespeople for general internal medicine as a field — in academic interactions with trainees, formal conversations with deans and other curriculum decision makers, and through online channels

The SGIM website offers several ways you might join the #ProudtobeGIM movement at your local institution, including:

  • Host a #ProudtobeGIM local event for medical students, and encourage them to enter into the field. This could be a panel session, brown bag, or even a virtual event.
  • Host a social media campaign at your institution, using their #ProudtobeGIM messaging and using the hashtag #ProudtobeGIM.

The program went live to medical students on September 15, with 6 pilot institutions participating.

Q&A: Why General Internal Medicine Needs a Push

I asked the chair of the SGIM Communications Strategy Workgroup (and former president of SGIM) to respond to a few questions about what is driving the “proud to be GIM” campaign. Her name is Dr. Ann B. Nattinger MD, MPH; she is the Chief of General Internal Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

What do you think the primary driver is for physicians choosing to practice general internal medicine over a specialty?

Our research shows that GIM attracts students who want to act as the “quarterback” for their patients. This means providing a full range of treatment, from primary and preventive care to complex care. General internists are the doctors you first visit with a new problem, who take care of most acute and chronic illnesses of adulthood, and who coordinate care among subspecialists when subspecialty consultation is needed. General internists are also innovators in the field of primary care, working to ensure that patients will receive the proper care into the future.

What is the danger of not enough clinicians in general internal medicine (whether that’s physicians, physician assistants, or nurse practitioners) as the baby boom generation ages?

If there are not enough clinicians in general internal medicine in the future, then we risk patients having very fragmented care. Patients may try to quarterback their own care and seek out various subspecialists on their own. They would be lacking the coordination that GIM physicians provide, and may end up undergoing duplicative tests or therapies. In addition, patients may not be aware of all the appropriate preventive and screening care, and may miss out on opportunities to maximize their future health.

What are the long-term goals of the #ProudtobeGIM campaign?

The SGIM campaign aims to increase the number of students who eventually select a career in general internal medicine. The campaign is doing this by targeting the students, but also by targeting key influencers who may advise students on career choices along the way. Our SGIM members, most of whom are medical school faculty members, are very excited by the campaign. We hope this excitement will be shared by the medical students who are exposed to the campaign this fall.

What tools are physicians using to keep up with the ever-changing and broad field of evidence-based general internal medicine?

General internists use a variety of tools to keep up with evidence based general internal medicine. We attend periodic meetings to hear about the latest research results and to network with others in our field. We scan key journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine, the Annals of Internal Medicine, the Journal of General Internal Medicine, and others for information relevant to this field. Most internists have access to resources that synthesize information as well. A combination of strategies works best for keeping up-to-date in this exciting field.

Are you excited about general internal medicine or about being a primary care physician? Are you worried that there won’t be enough PCPs for our aging Americans?