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Keywords:

  • osteopaths;
  • allopaths;
  • medical school;
  • primary care

OBJECTIVE: To contrast prevailing behaviors and attitudes relative to primary care education and practice in osteopathic and allopathic medical schools.

DESIGN: Descriptive study using confidential telephone interviews conducted in 1993–94. Analyses compared responses of osteopaths and allopaths, controlling for primary care orientation.

SETTING: United States academic health centers.

PARTICIPANTS: National stratified probability samples of first-year and fourth-year medical students, postgraduate year 2 residents, and clinical faculty in osteopathic and allopathic medical schools, a sample of allopathic deans, and a census of deans of osteopathic schools (n = 457 osteopaths; n = 2,045 allopaths).

MEASUREMENTS: Survey items assessed personal characteristics, students' reasons for entering medicine, learners' primary care educational experiences, community support for primary care, and attitudes toward the clinical and academic competence of primary care physicians.

MAIN RESULTS: Primary care physicians composed a larger fraction of the faculty in osteopathic schools than in allopathic schools. Members of the osteopathic community were significantly more likely than their allopathic peers to describe themselves as socioemotionally oriented rather than technoscientifically oriented. Osteopathic learners were more likely than allopathic learners to have educational experiences in primary care venues and with primary care faculty, and to receive encouragement from faculty, including specialists, to enter primary care. Attitudes toward the clinical and academic competence of primary care physicians were consistently negative in both communities. Differences between communities were sustained after controlling for primary care orientation.

CONCLUSIONS: In comparison with allopathic schools, the cultural practices and educational structures in osteopathic medical schools better support the production of primary care physicians. However, there is a lack of alignment between attitudes and practices in the osteopathic community.