Podcast: The Unique Role (and Challenges) of the Preventive Medicine Workforce

Drs. Deborah Porterfield, Linda Hill, and Lisa Miller describe the unique role and challenges of the preventive medicine workforce.

As Jung and Russell highlight in “HRSA’s Investment in Preventive Medicine,” the lead editorial in a recent supplemental issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, preventive medicine (PM) is a unique medical specialty that requires training in not just clinical medicine and direct patient care but also in public and population health outcome measures. As Lisa Miller reports in “The SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic: Real-Time Training and Service for Preventive Medicine Residents,” this combined training is what allowed PM physicians and residents to respond in at least 10 ways to COVID-19 efforts during the height of the pandemic. And in “The Development and Implementation of Preventive Medicine Resident Rotations in a Shelter Serving Asylum-Seekers at the US-Mexico Border,” Linda Hill and colleagues affirm that preventive medicine residency training develops skills that are “singularly helpful in humanitarian crises.”

Why then is there a workforce shortage problem?

Despite being the only specialty to receive a special line of Congressional funding for residency training, preventive medicine faces an ongoing workforce shortage problem described by Ricketts, Porterfield, Miller, and Fraher. In “The Supply and Distribution of the Preventive Medicine Physician Workforce,” they conclude that the number of preventive medicine physicians is not likely to match population needs in the United States in the near term and beyond. This infographic summarizing their findings illustrates two challenges: a lack of diversity within the PM workforce, and a maldistribution of PM physicians in rural areas of the US.

Recently, JPHMP Direct had an opportunity to discuss these issues with three of the authors whose work is published in the supplement.

Deborah Porterfield is currently a medical consultant at the NC Division of Public Health, where she has served on the COVID-19 response since last year. Previously she was an associate professor and director of the Preventive Medicine Residency Program at UNC Chapel Hill.

Linda Hill is distinguished professor and interim assistant dean of the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health at the University of California San Diego.

Lisa Miller is a professor of epidemiology, the director of the Preventive Medicine Residency Program, and the associate dean for public health practice at the Colorado School of Public Health.

Listen to our podcast conversation below.

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