School of Medicine Alumnus Endows Scholarship to Encourage Primary Care Careers
It is all about family for UAB School of Medicine alumnus Peyton R. Bryars III, M.D. He began pursuing a medical career in the 1970s thanks to support from his parents as well as inspiration from an uncle who was a family practitioner. He chose to focus on primary care partly because it was an opportunity “to treat the whole family and truly understand their situation,” he says.
In the face of a growing nationwide shortage of primary care physicians, Dr. Bryars has established a legacy gift that will create an endowed medical scholarship benefiting UAB School of Medicine students interested in pursuing a primary care career. The scholarship will be named in honor of his parents, Doris R. and Peyton R. Bryars Jr.
“I appreciate both the value of my education at UAB and the sacrifice my parents made so I could go to school here,” Dr. Bryars says. “My parents worked tirelessly and sacrificed so my sister and I could go on to higher education. I wanted to use this scholarship to honor my parents and to help incoming medical students who have financial needs to consider primary care.”
Primary care is a field in desperate need of new physicians. According to a report released earlier this year by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. could see a shortage of more than 120,000 primary care physicians by the year 2030.
“There are serious shortages in primary care all over the country, especially in rural areas, and it’s only getting worse,” says William Curry, M.D., M.A.C.P., UAB School of Medicine associate dean for primary care and rural health. “The primary care workforce is aging and retiring, and we’re not replacing them as fast as we need. The good news is that with the right tools we can increase the number of students who want to fill those shoes.”
A native of Mobile, Alabama, Dr. Bryars graduated from the UAB School of Medicine in 1972 and completed a residency in internal medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He remained in San Francisco and worked in a group practice in internal medicine for eight years, then spent the remainder of his career as a regional medical director for the Chevron Corporation. As part of that job, he established and oversaw primary care clinics in several developing countries.
Throughout his career, Dr. Bryars developed an appreciation for the deep connection with patients that comes from working in primary care, and he wants current medical students to understand the value and personal satisfaction of a career in the field.
“In this world of super-specialization, we tend to think of individuals as parts,” Dr. Bryars says. “Primary care encourages us to look at the individual as a whole person and often as part of a larger family. I want to encourage students’ interest in primary care. It is a very rewarding profession.”
Dr. Curry says some students who might be interested in primary care are instead pursuing higher-paying specialist careers in an effort to offset the debt that can accompany medical school.
“Medical students today graduate with an average debt of about $180,000, and a student looking at that kind of debt can’t help but be influenced by the size of their income, which will be greater if they go into a specialist field rather than primary care,” Dr. Curry says. “So scholarship money for primary care is an essential piece in taking some of the pressure off that decision-making process.”
That is what makes primary care scholarships such as the one Dr. Bryars has established so valuable to both UAB and the overall medical community.
“From his own successful career in family medicine, Dr. Bryars knows firsthand the importance of access to primary care as a linchpin of healthy families and a healthy community,” says Selwyn M. Vickers, M.D., FACS, senior vice president for medicine, dean, and the James C. Lee, Jr., Endowed Chair in the UAB School of Medicine. “We are deeply grateful for his planned gift, which will honor his parents’ commitment to providing him and his sister with quality educations, while it strengthens our mission to train more primary care providers for our state.”
Even though Dr. Bryars continues to live in California, he says UAB will always be a special place for him, and he hopes his gift enables future UAB medical students to follow the career path he found so fulfilling.
“UAB is one of the top medical schools in the country. I owe everything I have now to UAB,” he says. “UAB gave me the education that provided me with a wonderful career. I wanted to give back to the school and hopefully provide the means for students who are interested in primary care to go into the field.”
Like Dr. Bryars, you can create your own legacy at UAB. Every donation, no matter the size, makes a great impact. Contact the Office of Planned Giving at email@example.com or 205-996-7533 to learn more.
—By Cary Estes