Recently released results(www.natmatch.com) from the 2016 American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Intern/Resident Registration Program -- the residency match program for new and recently graduated D.O. physicians -- suggest that primary care is an alluring specialty for these young physicians.
"The number of osteopathic students choosing family medicine continues to grow both in percentage and absolute numbers," said Stan Kozakowski, M.D., the AAFP's director of medical education, in an interview with AAFP News.
"This is particularly encouraging because D.O.-granting medical schools are growing at a faster rate than M.D.-granting medical schools," he added.
Indeed, the AAFP made note of the increasing interest in osteopathic medicine in a 2013 analysis in which authors pointed out that the number of D.O.-granting medical schools grew from 19 in 2002 to 37 in 2013.
The same report noted that osteopathic medical school first-year enrollment almost doubled between 2002 and 2012 (from 2,968 to 5,627) and predicted enrollment could soar to nearly 6,700 students by 2017.
AOA Match Highlights
This year, 2,255 positions were filled during the AOA Match, and of those, 1,238, or 55 percent, were in residency programs with primary care specialties -- defined by the AOA as family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and OB/GYN.
- Primary care and family medicine both stood out in results from the recent 2016 American Osteopathic Association (AOA) Intern/Resident Registration Program.
- The number of osteopathic students choosing family medicine continued to grow in both percentage and absolute numbers.
- Some 55 percent of the 2,255 positions filled during the AOA match were in residency programs with primary care specialties.
According to Kozakowski, the AAFP defines primary care in a different manner -- only considering family medicine, primary care internal medicine and primary care pediatrics as primary care specialties. That's because the vast majority of residents entering categorical internal medicine are subspecialists or hospitalists.
Primary care filled 67 more positions in 2016 than in 2015; family medicine filled an additional 41 positions. That means a total of 590 newly minted D.O. physicians chose family medicine residency programs in this year's AOA Match.
Kozakowski acknowledged "slow steady growth" in the number of osteopathic graduates choosing family medicine and the same for the number of family medicine positions offered.
Stepping up the Pace
Kozakowski tempered his enthusiasm regarding the 2016 results with a strong dose of reality.
"Despite the increasing numbers of osteopathic and allopathic medical students selecting family medicine, we still are falling far short of the number of recruits needed to serve the American public and deliver the triple aim of improved health care, improved patient experiences and reduced health care costs," he said.
However, the nation's steady drive toward valued-based payment most certainly will increase the value of family physicians to the health care system.
"We already are seeing an accelerating race to increase salaries for family physicians that will reduce the gap between family medicine and average subspecialty salaries, and that factor has historically been associated with an increase in medical students choosing family medicine," said Kozakowski.
When taking a six-year retrospective view of the AOA Match it's clear family medicine is benefiting from increased interest in the specialty. For instance,
- in 2011 family medicine offered 706 positions and filled 373,
- in 2012 offered 735 and filled 433,
- in 2013 offered 845 and filled 472,
- in 2014 offered 880 and filled 519,
- in 2015 offered 911 and filled 549, and in
- 2016 offered 991 and filled 590.
Stay tuned. Results of the much larger National Resident Matching Program -- long considered the "traditional Match" -- will be announced on March 18.
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Allopathic, Osteopathic Medical Communities Announce Transition to Unified GME Accreditation