Purpose: To determine the impact on rural New Mexico of the large, decentralized University of New Mexico (UNM) family medicine residency. Method: A cross-sectional study was conducted of all 317 residency's graduates from 1974 to 2004. Location of current practice was correlated with the residents' gender, ethnicity, medical school of origin, and whether most training took place in the urban program or one of three rural programs. The residency's impact on rural communities was assessed. Results: There was no significant gender difference between graduates who went into urban or rural practice. Compared with nonminority graduates, a significantly greater percentage of ethnic minority graduates were in rural and urban New Mexico practices and fewer in out-of-state practices. A greater percentage of graduates who had been medical students in New Mexico practiced in both rural and urban New Mexico areas compared with graduates of out of state medical schools. Finally, a greater percentage of graduates from the three rural family medicine residencies remained in the state and practiced in rural areas compared with graduates from the urban program. The graduates' contributions to the school of medicine and to rural New Mexico are described. Conclusions: Graduates of UNM's family medicine residency have contributed significantly to the state's rural health workforce. Ethnic minority status, graduation from New Mexico's medical school, and training in one of the three rurally based residencies favored in-state and rural retention, while gender had no significant effect. The rural orientation of the residencies offered rural communities economic benefits.
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