Since 1972, federal Title VII, Section 747 primary care training grants to medical schools and residency programs have aimed to increase the number of physicians who select primary care specialties and work in underserved areas. These grants help establish and maintain departments of family medicine, general internal medicine, and general pediatrics; strengthen primary care curriculum; and offer incentives for training in underserved areas. Previous analyses have shown that the grants are fulfilling their objectives.1,2 A recent study found that physicians who work with the underserved in CHCs and NHSC sites are more likely to have trained in Title VII-funded programs (Figure 1).3
If physicians from Title VII-funded residencies had chosen practices similar to those from nonfunded programs, CHCs would have had as many as 648 additional primary care physician vacancies from 2001 to 2003, doubling CHC vacancy rates. In 2004, there were 644 full-time equivalent vacancies for primary care physicians in CHCs.4 In 2009, more than 3,400 NHSC primary care physician positions were unfilled.5 CHC capacity has expanded rapidly, yet Title VII funding has declined dramatically.6,7 Federal efforts to enhance access to care may fail without better funding of the primary care pipeline through programs such as Title VII.