2015 Match Results — Continued Interest in Family Medicine Necessary, Needs to Accelerate to Meet Demand

Friday, March 20, 2015

Leslie Champlin
Senior Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224

LEAWOOD, Kan. — Interest in family medicine continued its upward trend for the sixth consecutive year, according to the 2015 National Residency Matching Program results released today. However, both the overall growth and the rise in U.S. medical school graduates choosing family medicine have slowed dramatically.

Known as the Match, the NRMP aligns graduating medical students with residency training programs in specialties the students want to pursue.

This year, the total number of medical students choosing family medicine was 3060, compared to 2,329 in 2009 and up 60 from 2014. That increase includes an increase of only six U.S. medical school graduates, a significant slip from 2014.

“We’re pleased with the overall movement in students choosing family medicine,” said Robert Wergin, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “However, we would hope that more U.S. medical school graduates would match to family medicine.”

The dramatically lower number of U.S. medical school graduates choosing family medicine reflects an uneven health policy environment that is taking its toll on student choices, according to Wergin.

“We saw a consistent and increasing growth in U.S. medical students matching to family medicine during the implementation of health system reforms that emphasized the importance of comprehensive primary medical care,” he said. “That has slowed down as policy makers have pulled back from supporting primary medical care.”

This year’s Match portends a continuing struggle to build a primary care physician workforce that will meet the health needs of Americans, according Clif Knight, MD, AAFP vice president for medical education.

“The increase we’re seeing needs to accelerate dramatically if Americans are going to have necessary access to primary medical care,” he said. “The American health care system is evolving from one that reacts to disease with expensive tests and rescue treatments to one that prevents disease and helps avoid complications from chronic conditions. That kind of system will need the expertise of many more primary care physicians working with a team of health professionals.”

The most recent graduate medical education analysis by the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care found the United States would have a shortage of 33,000 primary care physicians by 2035 unless the graduate medical education produces 21 percent more primary care physicians.

The report, “Estimating the Residency Expansion Required to Avoid Projected Primary Care Physician Shortages by 2035(annfammed.org)”, concluded the graduate medical education system would require an additional 1,700 primary care residency slots by 2035 to avert the shortage. Despite such data, 93 family residency programs have closed since 2001 and only 84 new programs have opened, according to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

“Growth in interest in family medicine among students is continuing, but we need to boost those numbers with policies that make a career in primary care a viable option,” said Wergin. “Students understand our health care system is moving toward one based on comprehensive primary medical care. We as a nation need to make sure they can take advantage of that trend.”

The AAFP last year recommended policies that will allow the medical education system to increase the number of primary care physicians for the short and long term. In its paper “Aligning Resources, Increasing Accountability, and Delivering a Primary Care Physician Workforce for America,” the AAFP outlined five specific policies that should be enacted:

  • Limit payments for direct graduate medical education and indirect medical education (IME) to training for first-certificate residency programs.
  • Establish primary care thresholds and maintenance of effort requirements applicable to all sponsoring institutions and teaching hospitals currently receiving Medicare and/or Medicaid GME financing.
  • Require all sponsoring institutions and teaching hospitals seeking new Medicare- and Medicaid-financed GME positions to meet primary care training thresholds as a condition of expansion.
  • Align financial resources with population health care needs through a reduction in IME payments and allocation of those resources to support innovation in GME.
  • Fund the National Health Care Workforce Commission.


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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 124,900 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five office visits -- that’s 192 million visits annually or 48 percent more than the next most visited medical specialty. Today, family physicians provide more care for America’s underserved and rural populations than any other medical specialty. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing, personal patient-physician relationship focused on integrated care.

To learn more about the specialty of family medicine, the AAFP's positions(5 page PDF) on issues and clinical care, and for downloadable multi-media highlighting family medicine, visit
www.aafp.org/media. For information about health care, health conditions and wellness, please visit the AAFP’s award-winning consumer website, www.FamilyDoctor.org(www.familydoctor.org).