Despite Canceled Celebrations, A Record Year for Family Medicine in the 2020 Match

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
Friday, March 20, 2020

Contact:
Megan Moriarty
American Academy of Family Physicians
(913) 302-8627
mmoriarty@aafp.org

LEAWOOD, Kan. — Today marks a historic year with an all-time record high of students matching into family medicine residency programs, according to the National Resident Matching Program® Main Residency Match results released Friday. This year marks 11 straight years of growth for the family medicine workforce, which makes up the largest and most representative medical specialty delivering primary care in this country.

The NRMP, also known as the Match, aligns graduating medical students with residency training programs in specialties the students choose to pursue. While this year’s Match traditions for students, schools and residency programs are severely interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, students matching into family medicine residency programs are even more important than ever with a worsening primary care shortage in the U.S.

This year, the total number of NRMP Match participants matching into family medicine was 4,335, up 487 from the 3,848 in 2019. 2020 is the first year that there has not been an American Osteopathic Association match as U.S. graduate medical education programs have transitioned to single accreditation through the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education. As such, the vast majority of students and graduates entering ACGME-accredited residency programs will do so through the NRMP Match.

“We congratulate those students who have matched into family medicine and celebrate their pursuit of our specialty, which serves as the foundation of our nation’s health care system,” said Gary LeRoy, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

“Family medicine is a thriving and essential specialty, but key systemic factors result in lower primary care choice. Public health issues like the pandemic the world is experiencing now underscore the importance of a strong foundation in primary care at the front lines surveilling and treating the community,” said LeRoy.

Family physicians make up the majority of the primary care physician workforce and mirror the geographic distribution of the U.S. population more closely than any other physician specialty or health professional workforce, practicing in more rural and underserved urban communities.

At a time when a shortage of more than 52,000 primary care physicians is predicted by 2025 and experts call for an increase in the proportion of physicians in the U.S. practicing primary care from 32% to 40%, the family medicine community is dedicated to doing its part to meet the need.

Of the major medical school pathways—U.S. allopathic schools, osteopathic schools and international schools—every sector grew the number of graduates entering primary care except for one: the U.S. allopathic schools.

“It is shameful and unacceptable that the sector of the pipeline that is the largest, receives the most public funding—i.e., taxpayer dollars—and holds the reputation for the most elite medical training institutions in the country, graduates the smallest rate of students into family medicine,” said Clif Knight, MD, AAFP senior vice president of education. Only 8.6% of U.S. allopathic senior medical students matched to family medicine residency programs, the lowest rate in over a decade.

Patients and communities can be thankful for the osteopathic pipeline, which despite being a smaller segment with less than one-third the number of graduates as U.S. allopathic schools, has graduated an increasing number of students into family medicine and sustained that through the rapid growth of their schools and class sizes in recent years.

“We’re pleased to see more U.S. medical school graduates choosing family medicine this year and more family medicine residency positions being offered and filled. This workforce contribution is especially important at a time when we need growth,” Knight said. “However, we still need more. As with last year’s Match, an increase is good news, but it’s not enough to support the future of family medicine and primary care. As our population ages and grows, we need to see significantly accelerated growth in students choosing family medicine.”

While family medicine has seen more than a decade of overall growth and nine years of record Match numbers, that growth is insufficient and needs to rapidly accelerate. For the U.S. medical education system to address the primary care workforce needs of this country, the rate of U.S. students entering family medicine careers needs to reach 25% by the year 2030. The current rate is half that, and it is imperative that we change the trajectory of growth in our family medicine workforce to fulfill the U.S. health care needs in the next decade.

That’s the focus of the America Needs More Family Doctors: 25x2030 Collective Impact—a collective effort of nine national family medicine and multi-sector organizations to increase the proportion of U.S. medical students who pursue family medicine residency training to 25% by 2030. The initiative aims to impact the pipeline to medicine and the process of medical education, shifting the conditions holding this systematic problem in place. In the year ahead, this collective will create a learning community to support U.S. medical schools and learn from institutions that achieve better results for family medicine despite similar environments and resources, as well as launch a national partnership with high school and undergraduate partners to stimulate the pipeline to medical school. By generating interest in family medicine careers among students early in the pipeline and supporting students and those who influence them to pursue those career goals, the AAFP hopes to bolster the family medicine workforce not only in quantity, but also composition, distribution and quality, resulting in a workforce that comes from and represents the populations it serves.

“To grow the primary care workforce, medical schools—particularly the schools subsidized by U.S. taxpayers—must do a better job, but they can’t do it alone. Changes are needed across the system, from pipeline to practice, to create that significant shift. Increasing pay for family physicians to achieve parity with subspecialty physicians is an important and necessary solution. Family physicians can help grow the workforce by mentoring, teaching and being role models in their communities and advocating for policies that advance primary care and support the pipeline,” said Knight.

“Slow-moving historical trends show that only significant, system-impacting change will create that accelerated growth. We don’t need continued evolution—we need revolution.”

For additional information, analysis, graphs and more, visit the AAFP Match Day 2020 Media kit at: https://www.aafp.org/media-center/kits/match-day-2020.html.


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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).