Do religious physicians disproportionately care for the underserved?
PURPOSE: Religious traditions call their members to care for the poor and marginalized, yet no study has examined whether physicians' religious characteristics are associated with practice among the underserved. This study examines whether physicians' self-reported religious characteristics and sense of calling in their work are associated with practice among the underserved. METHODS: This study entailed a cross-sectional survey by mail of a stratified random sample of 2,000 practicing US physicians from all specialties. RESULTS: The response rate was 63%. Twenty-six percent of US physicians reported that their patient populations are considered underserved. Physicians who were more likely to report practice among the underserved included those who were highly spiritual (multivariate odds ratio [OR] = 1.7; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1-2.7], those who strongly agreed that their religious beliefs influenced their practice of medicine (OR = 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1-2.5), and those who strongly agreed that the family in which they were raised emphasized service to the poor (OR = 1.7; 95% CI, 1.0-2.7). Physicians who were more religious in general, as measured by intrinsic religiosity or frequency of attendance at religious services, were much more likely to conceive of the practice of medicine as a calling but not more likely to report practice among the underserved. CONCLUSIONS: Physicians who are more religious do not appear to disproportionately care for the underserved.
Curlin, FA; Dugdale, LS; Lantos, JD; Chin, MH
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