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US Headed Toward Dramatic Shortage of Primary Care Physicians

Burke/Triolo Productions/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Where are the medical students going?  Not into primary care, a study in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals.

In what study author Dr. Colin West calls a "worrisome" development, more fledgling physicians are eschewing a career in general medicine, choosing instead more lucrative specialties.

Just over one in five of the 17,000 third-year residents surveyed said they were headed for internal medicine, with more women than men apt to choose this endeavor and more Americans than graduates from international medical schools moving in that direction.

West says if the trend continues -- and there's no reason to expect it won't -- the U.S. will be shortchanged in primary-care doctors by 50,000 physicians.

Making the situation worse is that millions of people will be going to the doctor more often over the next several years because of the Affordable Care Act.

Compounding the predicament is that many veteran primary care doctors are heading for retirement with no one to replace them.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio