Senior Honors Projects, 2010-2019

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Fall 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (BS)


Department of Political Science


Fred Mayhew

Kathleen Ferraiolo


Primary care physicians operate on the front lines of health care. Although primary care physicians play a critical role in improving health outcomes, workforce trends in the United States show a growing shortage of primary care physicians as demand for primary care rises. In conveying the importance of primary care physicians, the worsening physician shortage, the inequitable distribution of providers, and the lackluster institutional response thus far, this paper calls into question the effectiveness of current indicators used to identify underserved areas and provide appropriate government assistance. Through the use of data from the 2010 census and American Medical Association Master File, Spearman’s rho tests were conducted to determine factors associated with the distribution of primary care physicians in Virginia and North Carolina. In Virginia, population density was positively correlated with physician quantity and percent elderly population was negatively correlated with physician quantity. In North Carolina, population density and median household income were positively correlated with physician quantity. Race was not significantly associated with physician quantity in either state. Following analysis of the findings in each state, this paper concludes by raising concern regarding the use of income and elderly population in the designation of underserved areas, recommending greater emphasis on consistently supported indicators of underserved areas like population density, and calling for additional research into other potential indicators.



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