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Primary care doctors key to Obamacare

Stephon Johnson | 10/10/2013, 4:57 p.m.

Primary care doctors engage in holistic health care. They have a significant amount of knowledge about many subjects in the field of health care.But their jobs aren’t as sexy as specialists who are very good at only a few things.

Under the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), primary care physicians (PCPs) will see a boom in patients they’ll be able to serve. Most of these patients have gone long periods of time without health insurance or haven’t had any at all. But the numbers of patients joining the ranks of the insured could overwhelm an industry suffering a shortage of available caretakers.

Dr. Robert Goldberg, dean of Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine (TouroCOM), wants to change all that and make sure that America is introduced to more primary care doctors: the people who can deliver babies and treat heart attack victims.

Goldberg talked about the specialization of medicine and how it has affected the industry.

“For the last few decades, medicine has been specialization, some of it due to the advancement of technology and the lack of excitement associated with it,” Goldberg told the AmNews. “The other is that surgical fields are highly paid and very competitive, and the glamour in taking care of patients and their families has lost its luster.

“We’ve seen shows like ‘ER,’” continued Goldberg. “Those aren’t primary care.”

Goldberg spoke about the volume of information available to patients now more than in the past and how it’s become more important to learn a lot about a few things as opposed to learning a lot of things about a wide field. With the past several decades of medicine favoring specialists, didn’t President Barack Obama’s administration take this into account when putting together the Affordable Care Act? According to Goldberg, trips to Washington, D.C., over the past few years showed him that Obama and company have known for a while.

“I was invited to a White House briefing two years ago with Ezekiel Emanuel [Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s brother, who works in the medical field] along with the deans of schools like Columbia [University],” said Goldberg. “We discussed what medical schools were doing about the PCP issue. It’s something that they’re very well aware of.”

At Touro, Goldberg told the AmNews, students are taught by experienced PCPs in order to show them that nonspecialists in the medical field have equally rewarding careers. They learn basic science for the first two years and become more advanced in the latter stages. Goldberg wanted everyone to know that with the high demand for PCPs, there’ll be many jobs available.

“There’s opportunity for employment wherever you want to go,” said Goldberg. “And we show them by coupling classes with clinical experience. We selected hospitals in medically underserved dares, so students began to interface with populations that have an intrinsic need for good care, high quality care and extensive care.”

With the Affordable Care Act in its first stages, the nation needs them.