Career Related Information

Family Medicine Pri Ambulatory Care / Family Practice as Career / Family Medicine Residencies

Family Medicine and Primary/Ambulatory Care

Recently, individuals from many different specialties have started referring to themselves as primary care physicians. It is important to understand how Family Medicine is unique within the realm of primary care and ambulatory care providers.

Family Medicine:
Family Medicine is the medical specialty that is committed to and provides continuing and comprehensive health care for the individual and the family. It is a specialty that emphasizes breadth of knowledge and which integrates the biological, clinical and behavioral sciences. The scope of Family Medicine encompasses all ages, sexes, each organ system and every disease entity. Family Medicine is the continuing and current expression of the historical medical practitioner and is uniquely defined within the context of the family (AAFP, 1986).

Primary care:
Primary care is a type of medical care delivery that emphasizes first contact and assumes ongoing responsibility for the patient in both health maintenance and therapy of illness. It is personal care involving a unique interaction and communication between the patient and the physician. It is comprehensive in scope and includes the overall coordination of the care of the patient's health problems, be they biological, behavioral, or social. The appropriate use of consultants and community resources is an important part of effective primary care (American Academy of Family Physicians [AAFP], 1975). While primary care services can and are delivered by individuals from many specialties including Family Medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics, not all internists and pediatricians are exclusively involved in primary care.

Ambulatory care:
Ambulatory care is medical care that is provided in the outpatient setting, i.e., outside of the hospital (inpatient) setting. This can include, for example, a physician's office, a clinic attached to a hospital (such as Mulcahy Outpatient Center), and a health department clinic. Patients seen in outpatient settings must be adequately mobile (this can include wheel chair users) and “well” to get to the facility.

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Family Practice as a Career

FamilyMedicine is rapidly growing in popularity as a career choice for many medical students. In the Article Appendix is an article entitled, “Responses to Questions About Family Medicine as a Career” reprinted from the American Family Physician.

Family Physicians: Who We Are and What We Do

In the increasingly fragmented world of health care, one thing remains constant: Family physicians are dedicated to treating the whole person.  Family medicine's cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focusing on integrated care.  Unlike other specialties that are limited to a particular organ, disease, age or sex, family medicine integrates care for patients of both genders across the full spectrum of ages within the context of community and advocates for the patient in an increasingly complex health care system.

The nation's nearly 70,000 practicing family physicians are key providers of primary care in the United States, with nearly one in four of all office visits made to general and family physicians annually.  In 2001, office visits to general and family physicians numbered more than 210 million - 76 million more than to any other specialty.

The specialty of family medicine was created in 1969 to fulfill the generalist function in medicine, which suffered with the growth of sub-specialization after World War II.  Since its creation nearly four decades ago, the specialty has delivered on its promise to reverse the decline of general medicine and provide personal, front-line medical care to people of all socioeconomic strata and in all regions of the United States.  Today, family physicians provide the majority of care for America's underserved rural and urban populations.  In fact, more than a third of all U.S. counties, with a combined population exceeding 40 million Americans, depend on family physicians to avoid designation as primary care health profession shortage areas.

Because of their extensive training, family physicians are the only specialists qualified to treat most ailments and provide comprehensive health care for people of all ages - from newborns to seniors. Like other medical specialists, family physicians complete a three-year residency program after graduating from medical school. As part of their residency, they participate in integrated inpatient and outpatient learning and receive training in six major medical areas: pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, psychiatry and neurology, surgery and community medicine. They also receive instruction in many other areas including geriatrics, emergency medicine, ophthalmology, radiology, orthopedics, otolaryngology and urology.

Providing patients with a personal medical home, family physicians deliver a range of acute, chronic and preventive medical care services. In addition to diagnosing and treating illness, they also provide preventive care, including routine check ups, health-risk assessments, immunization and screening tests, and personalized counseling on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Family physicians also manage chronic illness, often coordinating care provided by other sub-specialists.  From heart disease, stroke and hypertension, to diabetes, cancer and asthma, family physicians provide primary care for the nation's most serious health problems.
Copyright 2006 American Academy of Family Physicians

Facts about family medicine:

Average number of hours worked per week: 51
Average number of patients seen in office per week: 92
Mean annual income: $173.6

Percentage of family doctors by size of community:

2,500 -19,999
20,000 - 250,000
250,000 -1 million
> 1 million
   Not reported


(For more comprehensive facts about Family Medicine, visit )

Fellowships commonly completed by family physicians:

Sports Medicine
Faculty Development
Rural Medicine
Preventive Medicine
Substance Abuse
Adolescent Medicine

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Family Medicine Residencies

There are numerous accredited Family Medicine residencies in the U.S. There are twenty-seven residency programs in Illinois. The American Academy of Family Physicians Directory of Family Medicine Residency Programs and the Clerkship/Preceptor Directory is available at

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