Continued Uptick in Students Choosing Family Medicine Welcome, But More Growth Needed to Fill the Primary Care Physician Pipeline
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 17, 2017
Senior Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 6252
LEAWOOD, Kan. — Interest in family medicine continued its upward trend for the eighth consecutive year, according to the 2017 National Residency Matching Program® results released today.
Known as the Match, the NRMP aligns graduating medical students with residency training programs in specialties the students want to pursue. This year, the total number of medical students choosing family medicine was 3,237, up 132 from the 3,105 last year. The number of U.S. allopathic medical school graduates choosing family medicine was 1,530, up 49 from 2016.
"While the increase in medical students matching in family medicine is encouraging, the uptick is woefully inadequate to meet the primary health care needs of the American people,” said John Meigs, Jr., MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. “Research shows increased availability of primary care and especially family medicine leads to increased quality and lower costs for patients and for the health care system.”
The 2017 Match results come at a time when the survival of a program that is vital to building the primary care physician workforce is at stake. Authorization and funding for the program — the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program—expires Sept. 30.
Established by the Affordable Care Act to build the primary care physician workforce, the teaching health center program provides graduate medical education funds directly to community-based residency programs. Since their launch, teaching health centers have drawn strong student interest. In the 2014-2015 academic year, the programs received more than 100 applications for each available residency position.
“The teaching health center program is doing exactly what it was designed to do—produce primary care physicians who care for patients in underserved areas,” Meigs said. “Nine out of 10 teaching health center graduates intend to work in primary care and more than three out of four plan to work in underserved communities. Both reauthorizing and supporting teaching health centers are extremely important for patients’ access to health care.”
The AAFP has called on Congress to make the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program a permanent program that is supported through Centers for Medicare & Medicaid graduate medical education funding.
The support is based on several research reports demonstrating the contributions teaching health centers have made to building the primary care physician workforce and addressing the maldistribution of physicians:
- Research from the Robert Graham Center, “Graduates of Teaching Health Centers Are More Likely to Enter Practice in the Primary Care Safety Net(www.graham-center.org),” shows that nearly twice as many primary care medicine residents who trained in teaching health centers went on to practice in underserved settings as did their counterparts who trained in hospital-based programs.
- Teaching Health Centers: A Promising Approach for Building Primary Care Workforce for the 21st Century(publichealth.gwu.edu)
- Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Locations Predominantly Located in Federally Designated Underserved Areas(www.jgme.org)
- Teaching Health Center GME Funding Instability Threatens Program Viability
“Americans living in rural and urban underserved areas have struggled with access to primary medical health care for decades,” said Meigs. “The teaching health center program has been one of the most successful for increasing patients’ access to health care. Ongoing and reliable funding for teaching health centers is essential if we want to make sure rural and urban Americans have access to medical care.”
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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).