|Family Medicine Surges In 2008
Medical students’ interest in family medicine
surged in 2008, and evidence of that growth came when the National
Resident Matching Program, (NRMP) revealed its 2008 match results.
The results show that 1,172 U.S. seniors – 65 more
than in 2007 – chose family medicine. Moreover, the specialty
achieved a 91 percent fill rate – the best in more than a decade
– for all family medicine residency positions offered.
Family medicine residency programs nationwide offered
2,653 positions and filled 2,404 through the Match. More encouraging:
the increase in both number and percentage of positions filled came in
a year when the number of family medicine residency positions offered
through the NRMP also grew by 33 nationwide.
"We are extremely pleased with this year’s Match,"
said American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) President Dr. James
King, of the NRMP results. "It’s significant on several levels:
more U.S. graduates chose family medicine; family medicine residency
programs increased the number of positions offered through NRMP, and
– because students are recognizing the value of family medicine
– we set a record with the percentage of positions filled."
The increase in students choosing family medicine could
not come at a better time, according to physician workforce studies and
national physician recruitment reports, according to the AAFP.
It said all agree the nation is grappling with a
deepening shortage of primary care physicians. The need for family
physicians is expected to skyrocket by 2020, when the nation will need
139,531 family physicians, according to the AAFP’s 2006 Physician
"That means our residency programs must be graduating
more than 4,400 new family physicians each year," said King. "At the
rate that we are training family physicians with this year’s
NRMP, we are halfway there."
"So, although this year’s increase in interest in
family medicine is very encouraging, we have a long way to go," he
said. "We need to enhance and support education policies that recruit
medical students who are likely to choose primary care careers that
support primary care graduate education programs and that support new
family physicians as they begin their careers. That combination will
keep the momentum up and help to resolve the crisis in primary care."
Already, the nation is feeling the pinch, according to
the 2007 Physician Survey by national physician recruiting company
Merritt Hawkins, which said demand for family physicians has shot up by
84 percent since the company’s 2003-2004 report. Compensation
offers have risen by 11 percent between 2007 and 2008 and virtually all
recruiters are offering signing bonuses.
"If you ask today’s pre-med and medical students
what they want to be, most of them will describe a career as a family
doctor," said King. "But they’ve been discouraged from family
medicine for a number of reasons. They see their educational debt going
up and look at a system that, until recently, placed little value on
primary care. That attitude is changing and will continue to change.
The people who pay for healthcare – whether they’re
employers buying health benefits for their workers, the federal
government paying for Medicare, states funding their Medicaid programs,
or the patients themselves – are demanding a system that begins
with primary care.
"Tomorrow’s family physicians have excellent
career opportunities ahead of them, and today’s medical students
realize that," he said.
Address: American Academy of Family Physicians, 11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway, Leawood, KS66211; (913) 906-6000, www.aafp.org.