Ranks of Family Medicine Residents Grow for Fourth Consecutive Year

Students Matching to Specialty Outnumber Total of 2012 Positions Offered

Friday, March 15, 2013


LEAWOOD, Kan. — Medical student interest in family medicine continued its growth this year, according to the 2013 National Residency Matching Program results released today. This year, family medicine training programs attracted 2,938 students compared to 2,611 in 2012. This year’s Match numbers(1 page PDF) are higher than the total 2,764 positions offered last year. This year’s “fill rate” also rose to 96 percent, up from the 2012 rate of 94.5 percent.

Known as the Match, the NRMP aligns graduating medical students with residency training programs in specialties they want to pursue. In this year’s Match, the total number of U.S. medical students choosing family medicine was 1,374 — up 39 from 2012.

This is the fourth consecutive year the number of medical students choosing family medicine has increased.

“Although we’re pleased with this year’s Match, the growth has slowed,” Jeffrey Cain, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said. “If we’re going to successfully rebalance the health care workforce on primary care medicine, we need to build the number of U.S. medical school graduates choosing family medicine. This means we must strongly advocate for health care education and workforce policies that foster interest in family medicine among U.S. medical students and continue support for programs such as the National Health Service Corps and primary care health professions grants under Title VII of the Public Health Services Act. Everyone should have a primary care physician in the patient-centered medical home.”

However, the trend does indicate students’ awareness of family physicians’ importance in patient care and a greater appreciation for the role they will play in a reformed health care system, according to Cain. The value of primary medical care has become much more apparent because health care reform has focused a bright light on the importance of primary care medicine and on new ways of providing that care — such as the patient-centered medical home.

“Students increasingly realize that family physicians can practice the kind of medicine they had envisioned when they decided to become a doctor,” Cain said. “They realize they can provide team-based, comprehensive care that is focused on the patient’s needs.”

Stan Kozakowski, MD, AAFP director of medical education, agreed. “We’ve reached out to students to make sure they understand the importance of primary care in today’s health care system and health care of the future,” he said. “Family Medicine Interest Groups play an important role in introducing medical students to the professional challenges and satisfaction that come with being a family physician.

The FMIG programs emphasize that family medicine is a comprehensive specialty that cares for all ages and — in addition to providing preventive services and care for short-term illnesses — provides diagnosis and treatment for the medical cause of multiple, vague symptoms that develop in complex health conditions. Family physicians care for patients with serious conditions such as heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey show family physicians have more visits for circulatory problems (35 percent of visits) than cardiologists (19 percent) and nearly as many visits for musculoskeletal problems (27 percent) as orthopedic subspecialists (30 percent). More patients see family physicians for endocrine problems such as diabetes than they do other specialties or subspecialties.

Moreover, family physicians treat patients in hospital intensive care, cardiac care and emergency departments, long-term care facilities and hospice services.

“I’m pleased that students want to have the breadth and depth of training that will prepare them to provide such a full range of care to people of all ages,” said Cain. “As more young people choose family medicine, we can rebalance our physician workforce so that it meets the needs of America. And we’ll continue to work toward increasing the number of U.S. medical graduates who choose family medicine.”

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Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 136,700 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the largest 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 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(familydoctor.org).