Do you have a family doctor?

A growing number of New Jerseyans do not.

According to Dr. Peter Carrazzone, president of New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the problem continues to get worse.

“In New Jersey there are a lot of specialists, but what we’ve been labeled is a primary care desert in New Jersey,” he said.

Only 5 percent of the doctors in New Jersey are in primary care “and that creates a huge problem in cost and quality," he says.

“The more primary care doctors we have in any area, the cost of care goes down. What may be surprising is the quality goes up.”

In another words, “patients do better when there’s more primary care practices.”

According to a report from the Robert Graham Center, there are 6,236 primary care physicians in New Jersey. But as more and more new doctors move to other states and older doctors retire, the state will need an additional 1,116 new primary care physicians by the year 2030, a 17 percent increase from today.

New Jersey ranks near the bottom of the 50 states when it comes to having enough primary care physicians, but we have the second highest number of specialist doctors of any state.

Carrazzone said the state needs to do more to attract more family physicians for a very simple reason.

“If we have a higher percentage of primary care doctors it will cut the cost overall, we’ll have higher value and better outcomes.”

He described New Jersey’s basic student loan forgiveness program as inadequate.

“Only six physicians have used it since its inception, and they’ll send them to areas that are not fostering community-building. They’ll send them to a prison or in areas where there’s not a strong community commitment,” he said.

He noted the Academy is trying to work to correct the problem.

“We need investments on the legislative level, on the medical school level, a commitment to turn out more primary care doctors, change our loan forgiveness program and we need to find ways of increasing salaries.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at

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