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Family Medicine Match Rate Increases Slightly
Number Still Insufficient to Meet U.S. Demand for Primary Care
By Sheri Porter • Kansas City, Mo.
A total of 1,335 U.S. seniors matched to family medicine in 2012 -- an increase of 18 seniors compared with 2011. But for the first time since 2002, fewer U.S. seniors participated in the NRMP than in the preceding year: 16,527 in 2012 versus 16,559 in 2011.
- Family medicine saw a slight rise in the 2012 Match, marking the third straight year of increases.
- The number of U.S. seniors matching to family medicine also inched up.
- Overall, however, the small increase is not enough to meet the country's demand for family physicians.
AAFP Match data include family medicine, family medicine-psychiatry, family medicine-emergency medicine, family medicine-preventive medicine and family medicine-internal medicine programs.
Keep the Ball Rolling
Family medicine's 2012 Match numbers barely increased from 2011 numbers and certainly did not indicate enough growth in the specialty to keep up with America's increasing demand for family physicians, he told AAFP News Now.
"Family medicine is the foundation of improved health care in this country," said Stream. "We must continue to promote programs that generate and sustain student interest in the specialty."
Stream noted that health system reform is under way, and initiatives such as CMS' Primary Care Incentive Program and private payer pilot projects were designed to increase payment to primary care physicians in general -- and family physicians in particular -- for delivering high-quality care in a patient-centered medical home environment.
However, that work is far from finished.
"An analysis of the relationship between physician salaries and specialty choice found that U.S. seniors are predominantly choosing the more highly compensated specialties," said the report, adding that "the dramatic increase in the income gap between primary care and other specialties" must be appropriately addressed.
"Americans need access to primary care doctors, and the path to filling that pipeline with future family physicians is clear," said Stream. "Several things need to happen, including narrowing the income gap between primary care and other physician specialists, reforming the medical education infrastructure, changing the system that funds graduate medical education, and increasing support for programs such as the National Health Service Corps and health professions training programs."
The AAFP report suggests that a vibrant family medicine workforce depends on multiple factors, including the ability to
- recruit students to the specialty,
- train family medicine residents to provide health care within the framework of a patient-centered medical home and
- sustain family physicians in practice.
Newly Matched Students Embrace Family Medicine
UMKC confirmed that this year, 40 percent of its graduating class of 86 matched to primary care programs, including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics and OB-Gyn. Four students matched into family medicine.
George Harris, M.D., UMKC's assistant dean for years one and two medicine and a professor of community and family medicine, admitted that he initially was disappointed that only four students chose family medicine in 2012, down from seven in 2011. But he spoke highly of those future family physicians.
"Even though the number is small, I know the quality and caliber of the individuals who matched, and they will represent our specialty well," he said.
According to Werth, he knew midway through UMKC's six-year medical school program that family medicine was for him. "I enjoy getting to know patients and developing long-standing relationships with them," said Werth. "I also like being able to diagnose problems and treat them without having to send patients to outside specialists."
Another student, Ruth Pitts, of Bolivar, Mo., will join the Cox Family Medicine Residency in Springfield, Mo. Pitts discovered her enthusiasm for family medicine in high school when she shadowed a local family physician in the summer leading up to -- and then throughout -- her senior year.
"I love the continuity of care and that I can offer a wide range of services for patients," said Pitts. She's also learned that patients trust their family physicians and respect their treatment recommendations in a way that positively affects care and outcomes. "Patients feel like you have their best interests in mind," said Pitts, adding that she will enjoy the years of continuous learning that family medicine requires.
Allison Klapetzky, of Okawville, Ill., soon will be on her way to the St. Francis Hospital System Family Medicine Residency in Indianapolis.
"In the eighth grade, I knew I wanted to be a family doctor," said Klapetzky, president of the family medicine interest group at UMKC. "I embrace the womb-to-tomb philosophy of family medicine."
As Match Day Nears, Student Board Member Shares Wishes for Family Medicine
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