Family Medicine: A Specialty for All Ages



After a diminishing of its ranks following the post–World War II explosion of growth in medical discoveries, advanced medical technology, and the concomitant specialization of the physician workforce, family medicine is re-establishing itself as a leading medical specialty that has garnered growing interest among recent medical-school graduates. Family physicians provide care for patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly. In addition to its wide scope of practice, family medicine is characterized by its emphasis on understanding of the whole person, its partnership approach with patients over many years, and its command of medical complexity. Family physicians are trained both to use community resources to assist individual patients in meeting medical or social needs and to identify and address community-wide needs. The specialty of family medicine is uniquely positioned to provide a leadership role in health-reform efforts that are accelerating across the country. Health care models that are gaining traction, such as the patient-centered medical home model, health homes, and accountable care organizations, share the characteristics of providing comprehensive, coordinated patient care with an emphasis on disease prevention and health promotion. This model of care, provided in the context of family and community, has been the hallmark of family medicine since its creation as a distinct medical specialty more than 40 years ago. In addition, family physicians' ability to care for patients of all ages make them particularly cost-effective as the new models of care move to improve access to care through expanded hours and locations. Mt Sinai J Med 79:603–609, 2012. © 2012 Mount Sinai School of Medicine