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Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(12):2260

See editorial on page 2248.

In 2004, there were 91,600 family physicians (FPs) and general practitioners (GPs) and 222,000 primary care physicians actively caring for patients, one for every 1,321 persons. These primary care physicians represent the largest and best-trained primary care physician workforce that has ever existed in the United States.

In 2004, there were 620,627 active physicians whose major professional activity was direct patient care, one physician for every 472 persons in the United States1 (see accompanying table2). Of these physicians, 91,627 were FPs or GPs, representing almost 15 percent of the physician workforce—approximately one FP or GP for every 3,202 persons. These numbers contrast with the beginning of the twentieth century, when there were about 132,000 physicians, approximately one for every 590 persons, with more than 85 percent of the workforce composed of GPs.2 In 2004, the FP workforce consisted of 78,045 allopathic physicians and 13,582 osteopathic physicians, about 17 percent of whom were international medical graduates.

Family physicians work with other primary care physicians. In 2004, there were 85,293 general internists, of whom 67 percent were U.S. medical school graduates, and 45,139 general pediatricians, of whom 72 percent were U.S. medical school graduates. Thus, there was one general internist for every 2,556 persons 18 years or older and one general pediatrician for every 1,670 persons younger than 18 years. In 2004, there were 222,059 primary care physicians actively caring for patients in the United States, or one primary care physician for every 1,321 persons. A majority of these physicians completed a rigorous three-year training program following medical school, which was designed to prepare them for general medical practice.

FPsGPsFPs and GPsPrimary care*Other subspecialistsTotal
Physicians in specialty76,65014,97791,627222,059398,568620,627
Persons per physician3,82719,5893,2021,321736472
Physicians per 100,000 persons2653176136212

The United States has the largest and best-trained primary care physician workforce that it has ever had. Given the investment made to develop this workforce, and the benefits that accrue to communities from their work, these physicians represent a precious national resource.

The information and opinions contained in research from the Graham Center do not necessarily reflect the views or the policy of the AAFP.

This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, deputy editor.

A collection of Graham Center Policy One-Pagers published in AFP is available at https://www.aafp.org/afp/graham. One-Pagers are also available at https://www.graham-center.org.

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