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Medical Education
Medical Student Education

Career Information: Family Medicine

Specialty: Family Medicine
Completed by: Margo Vener, Beth Wilson, Bill Shore
Date completed/updated: April 2014

  1. What can students do in the 1st and 2nd years to explore and/or prepare for this career?
    Participate in the Family Medicine Interest Group (FMIG).
    Apply to the Primary Care Leadership Academy (PCLA).
    Request a selective placement in a Family Medicine clinic.
    Identify a Family Medicine mentor in the first year.
    Participate in DFCM electives.
    Contact Roy Johnston for details:
  2. What common variations exist in the length/content of residency programs for this career?
    Family Medicine residencies are 3 years to be board eligible. Some programs have changed to 4 years, with the possibility of additional training in specific areas.

    There are some combined programs. Family Medicine-OB/GYN-4 years and Family Medicine-Psych-4 or 5 years.             
  3. What common variations exist in this career after training?
    There are numerous possibilities and variations after training. Full scope Family Medicine includes prenatal care and deliveries, and continuity care for patients throughout the life cycle. Nationally, about one third of Family Physicians practice obstetrics. Other Family Physicians practice primary care for the entire family, by providing caring for parents, children and grandparents; however, they may collaborate with colleagues in obstetrics who will deliver babies. After the delivery, Family Physician will then care for the new baby and mother as well as the rest of the family. Some Family Physicians choose to work in hospitals and provide inpatient care, but others do not. What unites the practice of Family Medicine is that nearly all Family Physicians spend at least some of their time providing primary care in a continuity setting.

    Post-residency fellowships or Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ)s are available in: Adolescent Medicine, Sports Medicine, Geriatrics, Research, Obstetrics, Research, Public Policy, Health Advocacy, Complementary-Alternative Medicine, and Medical Education.

    Because of the breadth of training, Family Medicine is a highly desired specialty for global health and also for rural settings. Family Medicine is the only specialty for which Doctors without Borders will only give long-term placements abroad.

    It is not necessary to complete a fellowship to start clinical practice. Most FM clinicians do not complete sub-specialty fellowships.
  4. What is a typical workday for someone in this field?
    This is highly variable and dependent on the career path one chooses.  Practicing FM clinicians work primarily in outpatient settings, primarily in groups or larger health care organizations (e.g. Kaiser Permanente). Some Family Physicians work as hospitalists. Others work in Women’s Health setting (family planning, gynecology or abortion services). Others work in Sports Medicine practices.
    Family Physicians also work in emergency rooms, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, and other inpatient and chronic care settings.
    Family Physicians interested in teaching can include precepting medical students and residents in their clinical practice.
    Family Physicians may combine research, education, public health, health policy and advocacy with part-time clinical practice.
  5. What is the culture of this career?
    The culture of Family Medicine is patient-centered, focused on continuity of care, and congruent with the primary care medical home (PCMH). Long-term relationships with patients and families are the foundation of Family Medicine. There is a strong orientation toward preventive care and public health. Many Family Physicians are engaged in local or national health reform efforts that focus on providing effective, efficient and cost- effective care that meets the needs of the national population. Many Family Physicians also place a high value on providing care for diverse patient populations, including medially underserved patients.
  6. How compatible is this career with raising a family? How is this different for men and women?
    Family Medicine is very compatible with raising a family.   In recent years, the majority of graduates entering family medicine are women.  Job sharing and less than full time work is available for both men and women. Due to the specialty’s commitment to maintaining physician and family well being, and also because of the high demand for primary care physicians, Family Physicians are in an excellent position to shape their jobs to work with family needs.
  7. What are the most important qualities or character traits for a person in this field?
    Important qualities for Family Physicians include comfort with broad-spectrum care; skills in collaboration, communication and flexibility; and the ability to work on multi-disciplinary teams.
  8. How competitive are the residency programs in this field? 
    UCSF graduates are recognized as excellent applicants for residency and are often highly recruited by residency programs throughout the country. In recent years, with the increased interest in primary care, family medicine residency programs have become more competitive.

    There are many types of family medicine residency programs in a variety of settings and with different missions.  There are community programs without other training programs (“unopposed” or “solo”), academic medical centers with a full range of other residency programs, rural programs and urban underserved programs. There are also residency programs at institutions with other residency programs (“opposed” or “collaborative” programs)
  9. How competitive is the job market after residency?
    With the increased interest in primary care and Family Medicine as the foundations of medical care, there is a demand for more Family Physicians and primary care physicians throughout the country. Salaries for Family Physicians, although less than sub-specialists, are increasing. There are loan re-payment programs available in Family Medicine.
  10. What programs have been popular among UCSF applicants, or how should applicants go about considering programs?
    Because there are a variety of programs within different settings and foci, applicants should initially identify their long-term interests and goals, and then explore programs that fit those interests and goals.

    Popular programs for UCFS students include all the Bay Area programs including the UCSF Family Medicine residency program at SFGH, Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency, Contra Costa Regional Medical Center, San Jose O’Connor Hospital, and Kaiser Permaente Napa-Solano in Vallejo.  In addition to other California programs, our graduates have been drawn to many areas around the country, including Seattle, Boston, and New York.

    Students considering applying in Family Medicine should meet with Dr. Margo Vener during summer of their 4th year to help develop their list of potential programs to apply to.
  11. What resources (eg, websites, books, professional groups) would you recommend for students interested in learning more about this field?
    National Meetings:
    AAFP National Conference of Residents and Students – in Kansas City in late July/early August. It is an excellent meeting--geared to students and residents; great presentations at their level and interests; good opportunity to see how important FM is in the rest of the world. Also, at least 50% of the ~425 FM residency programs have booths at the meeting so students can save money residency trip travel by talking to programs at the meeting. Great networking and information. There are scholarships available.

    Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Medical Student Education Conference – Late January, for students interested in academic FM, scholarships available. We strongly encourage you to submit abstracts.

    Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Annual Conference – April or May, very large attendance, but not specifically geared to students.

    SNMA and NMA - the local NMA group contact here is Sinkler Miller in Oakland.

    Online Resources:
    AAFP FMIG website:

    AAFP – Strolling Through the Match:

    AAFP info about what the discipline is doing to address global health concerns:

    Family Medicine Organizations:
    American Board of Family Medicine The ABFP is the medical specialty board responsible for the establishment of high standards of excellence in the specialty of Family Medicine and for the design and administration of the family medicine specialty certification examination.

    American Academy of Family Physicians: The AAFP is a national medical association of family physicians, family medicine residents and medical students whose purpose is to promote and maintain high quality standards among family physicians and to provide advocacy on behalf of patients and the profession.  Our state chapter is the California Academy of Family Physicians.

    Society of Teachers of Family Medicine: STFM is an academic family medicine organization that strives "to enhance family medicine education by developing and supporting a community of educators, scholars and clinicians."

    North American Primary Care Research Group: NAPCRG is a multidisciplinary organization that fosters the development of primary care research.

    Collaborative Family HealthCare Coalition: The CFHcC is a multi-disciplinary group of health care professionals who study, implement and advocate for the collaborative family health care paradigm.

    World Organization of Family Doctors: A worldwide partnership of family medicine organizations.

    Loan Repayment & Scholarships:
    California: The California Physician and Dental Corps is a loan repayment program for doctors and dentists designed to increase health and dental care access in the underserved populations of California. Some sites in the Bay Area qualify for this. The program offers loan forgiveness to participating primary care doctors and dentists in exchange for a 3-year service commitment after residency in a medically underserved area of the state.

    Indian Health Service Loan Repayment:

    National Health Services Corps: The National Health Services Corps (NHSC) recruits and places health professionals at eligible sites within federally designated HPSAs. NHSC recruits primary care physicians who serve in community-based systems of care in return for scholarship or loan repayment assistance.

    Pisacano Scholarship: Applications are available for entering fourth year U.S. medical students who have declared Family Medicine as their specialty. The Pisacano Scholars Leadership Program will provide education programs, leadership training and funding over a four-year period to award recipients. Funds are intended to reduce medical-school debt and are not based on financial need. Applicants are judged on their commitment to Family Medicine, leadership qualities, academic performance, and involvement in helping others. Deadline: Late February - early March each year.

    General scholarship information is available from

    Financial Assistance Fund for UCSF medical students matching at a UCSF Family Medicine Residency Program Dr. C.E. Wells Alumni Assistance Fund in Family and Community Medicine:
  12. How important is each the following for admission to a competitive program?

    Very Important

    Somewhat Important

    Not Important

    volunteer work








    Honors in third year