Spotlight Interview: Why Did You Choose Family Medicine? (Oregon Resident)


A Family Medicine Resident's Perspective: From an interview with a family practice resident at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, OR.

Part of an interview series entitled, "Specialty Spotlights", which asks medical students' most burning questions to physicians of every specialty.  See what doctors from every specialty had to say about why they chose their specialty and how to match in their residency.


  • What attracted you to Family Medicine?
Autonomy. Mobility. I wanted the sense that I was choosing a specialty that would allow me to work as much or as little as I wanted and that would allow me to place my family in a town of our choosing (likely a small town).
I also love the tradition in family medicine of trying to manage a patient by yourself as much as possible. There are a lot of efficiencies and preventative virtues in this approach to care. I feel like so much can be done in a small community that keeps thousands of people from ever having to be admitted to a hospital.
I love the intellectual challenge of receiving a patient into my office and managing all of their complaints. The situation demands that I be fluent on a variety of medical topics and able to comment on the current state of the medical literature. I really enjoy the challenge to read broadly and competently on a range of medical issues, it allows me to possess a synthesized view of medicine and patient care, to be sure I am not engrossed in too many minute details.


  • Describe a Family Physician's typical work day?

Most days will start at 8:00 am. We see patients until 11:00 and then break for Lunch until 12:30. We see patients after lunch until 4:30. A large number of family docs will have a half-day on Friday.


  • What type of lifestyle can a Family Doctor expect?  

Your lifestyle will be pretty good. Weekends are virtually always free if you do not do hospital work. You will have regular call, but you rarely have to go in.  Most problems while you are on call are resolved over the telephone.


  • What is the average salary of a Family Practice Physician?

There is a great range of earning potential in FP.  The average salary is around $150,000.  However, you can see fewer patients in a day, or work fewer days in a week and earn less than this. If, however, you see patients quickly, become medical director of a nursing home or two, work extra on the weekends, etc, it is very possible to make much more than this.


  • What is the job market like for Family Medicine?

Honestly, it couldn't be better. Family docs can go anywhere they want. Lots of recruiters will call you throughout your residency. There is a great need of primary care docs in every corner of this country.


  • What can you tell us about Family Medicine Sub-specialties?

There are a few options as a family medicine physician. Some of the fellowships include hospital medicine (i.e. become a 'hospitalist'), geriatrics, adolescent care, and Sports medicine. For the most part, fellowships are one year in length. Sports medicine doctors end up making a bit more money than a generalist and the other sub-specialties.


  • What are the potential downsides of Family Medicine that students should be aware of?

In family medicine there is a lot to the business side of things. You will be responsible for managing much of the business side. If you are not a good businessperson, not organized, or dislike that type of thing, this part of the job could be a real drain. The salary is on the lower end for physicians, but it is still a very good living.


  • What else would you tell medical students who are considering Family Medicine?

If you want to do outpatient care in a small community, this is a great field.



Editor's Note: For more help choosing a specialty in medicine, I highly recommend one or both of these two great books. I found both very useful.


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