Family Medicine Gains 101 U.S. Medical School Graduates in 2010 Residency Match

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Leslie Champlin
Senior Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 6252

Family medicine residency training programs this year attracted 101 more U.S. medical school graduates to the specialty than in 2009, according to the National Residency Match Program results announced today. Known as the Match, the results show family medicine drew 1,184 U.S. graduates.

The total number of students choosing family medicine — which includes U.S. medical school graduates and international medical graduates — was 2,404, putting this year’s “fill rate” at 91.4 percent, a record for family medicine. Moreover, family medicine residency programs offered an additional 75 positions this year.

Both increases suggest an upswing in interest among U.S. medical school graduates, according to Lori Heim, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

“We are very pleased with this year’s Match,” said Heim. “This could signal a turn-around that we’re hoping will continue. But much of that depends on whether we see meaningful reforms in the way health care is delivered to the patient.”

Heim attributed the Match results to growing awareness of family physicians’ importance in patient care and a greater appreciation for the role they will play in a reformed health care system.

“I think primary care medicine became much more visible in the debate about health care reform,” she said. “In virtually every discussion about improving the quality of care, people pointed to the need to rebalance our system on a foundation of primary medical care. Add in the heightened awareness of the patient-centered medical home, and students began to understand that family physicians will be able to practice the kind of medicine they envisioned when they decided to become a doctor.”

Currently, primary care physicians comprise 30 percent of the U.S. physician workforce. Subspecialists make up the other 70 percent. However, research repeatedly demonstrates that primary care physicians comprise half of the physician workforce in efficient, high-quality systems. Thus, lagging medical student interest in primary care since 1999 has caused concern. Over the past decade, the number of U.S. medical school graduate going into family medicine has plummeted by 52 percent. Since 2006, studies have pointed to a worsening shortage of family physicians and other primary care doctors.

“If we’re going to close the primary care physician gap, we need to graduate twice as many family physicians as we are now graduating,” said Heim. “This year’s Match results are a step in the right direction. They demonstrate a shift in interest in primary care physician careers.

“We need to maintain this momentum, and we can if we move away from a system that emphasizes payment for sickness care toward a system that emphasizes prevention, wellness and coordinated care. Many of the provisions in health care reform move us in that direction, so we could be seeing the beginning of a trend in student interest.”

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Founded in 1947, the American Academy of Family Physicians represents 134,600 physicians and medical students nationwide, and it is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care.

Family physicians conduct approximately one in five of the total medical office visits in the United States per year – more than any other specialty. Family physicians provide comprehensive, evidence-based, and cost-effective care dedicated to improving the health of patients, families and communities. Family medicine’s cornerstone is an ongoing and personal patient-physician relationship where the family physician serves as the hub of each patient’s integrated care team. More Americans depend on family physicians than on any other medical specialty.

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