Generalist Provider Research Initiative

An RWJF National Program

Field of Work: Increasing the number of generalist physicians relative to specialists

Problem Synopsis: In the late 1980s, the Council on Graduate Medical Education (COGME) concluded that the nation's physician workforce was not well matched to public needs and that it had too few generalist and minority physicians, too many specialists, and poor geographic distribution of physicians. COGME recommended to Congress that at least 50 percent of residency graduates should enter practice as generalist physicians.

Synopsis of the Work: The Generalist Provider Research Initiative supported a series of research projects that addressed determinants of the generalist/specialist ratio and opportunities for—and constraints to—change. RWJF staff hoped that the findings of the projects would provide policy makers, educators, and health care providers with the information they needed to take action to strengthen the role of generalists in the delivery of primary care and alter the imbalance in generalist versus specialist services.

Key Results

  • The Generalist Provider Research Initiative funded a total of 12 studies. Project directors disseminated their findings through numerous publications they generated—many of them in refereed journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Journal of General Internal Medicine, and the American Journal of Public Health.

    Some of the findings received widespread coverage in medical newsletters and in mass media such as the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and National Public Radio.