Family Medicine Residency Match Numbers Show Slight Increase

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
Thursday, March 16, 2006

Contact:
Leslie Champlin
Senior Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 5224
lchampli@aafp.org

Family Physicians Call on Congress to Increase Funding for Family Medicine Training Programs

LEAWOOD, Kan. – The annual National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) today announced that 85 percent of the family medicine residency positions offered have been filled this year. By comparison, 82.4 percent of the specialty's residency positions filled in the 2005 match.

Even though 26 more medical students matched into family medicine this year, there were 55 fewer positions offered than in 2005. The same number of U.S. seniors chose family medicine in 2006 compared with last year. However, slightly more U.S. seniors participated in NRMP this year, resulting in a minimal decrease (8.1 percent vs. 8.2 percent) in the percentage of U.S. seniors who chose family medicine. For complete statistics, charts and graphs, please visit http://www.aafp.org/match.

"Family medicine is an integral part of the solution to providing high-quality, affordable and accessible health care to everyone," said Larry S. Fields, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "Studies clearly demonstrate that a higher ratio of primary care physicians, including family physicians, to population leads to better health outcomes and lower costs."

While family medicine showed a slight increase in the number of medical student matching into the specialty, the total proportion of students matching into primary care specialties remains low. Compared with a total of 20,072 applicants who selected residencies through the Match this year, only 3,032 matched into clearly identified primary care programs.

"Family physicians are the nexus of the U.S. health care safety net," Fields said. "Unless purposeful steps are taken now, the continuing low proportion of physicians choosing primary care will mean an increasingly fragmented, over-specialized and inefficient system."

Family physicians provide most of the care offered by Community Health Centers (CHCs), many of which are located in the nearly 25 percent of U.S. counties with less than one primary care doctor for every 3,500 patients. While the Bush administration plans to increase the number of CHCs, the president's proposed budget for 2007 zeros out funding vital to family medicine training programs.

A study published in the March 1, 2006, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association highlights difficulties in recruiting family physicians to care for patients at Community Health Centers throughout the country. The study reports that the nation's CHCs have more than 400 vacant positions for family physicians. The vacancy rate is particularly high in rural areas, and the problem may become worse because of the recent cuts in federal funding for training of family physicians and recent declines in the number of students choosing to specialize in family medicine and other primary care fields.

"Congress can correct that imbalance by amending the budget to increase funding for family medicine training programs," Fields said. "Increased funding would lead to a greater number of family physicians who could help deliver high-quality care to all Americans in a cost-effective way that improves their overall health."

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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).