Family Medicine Surges in 2008 Match Results

Though helpful, increase won’t solve family physician shortage

Thursday, March 20, 2008

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

LEAWOOD, Kan. – Medical students’ interest in family medicine surged in 2008, and evidence of that growth came Thursday when the National Resident Matching Program, or NRMP, announced the 2008 Match results.

The results show that 1,172 U.S. seniors – 65 more than in 2007 – chose family medicine. Moreover, the specialty achieved a 91 percent fill rate – the best in more than a decade – for all family medicine residency positions offered. Family medicine residency programs nationwide offered 2,653 positions and filled 2,404 through the Match. More encouraging: the increase in both number and percentage of positions filled came in a year when the number of family medicine residency positions offered through the Match also grew by 33 nationwide.

“We are extremely pleased with this year’s Match,” said AAFP President James King, M.D., of the match results. “It’s significant on several levels: more U.S. graduates chose family medicine, family medicine residency programs increased the number of positions offered through the Match, and – because students are recognizing the value of family medicine – we set a record with the percentage of positions filled.”

The increase in students choosing family medicine could not come at a better time, according to physician workforce studies and national physician recruitment reports. All agree the nation is grappling with a deepening shortage of primary care physicians. The need for family physicians is expected to skyrocket by 2020, when the nation will need 139,531 family physicians, according to the AAFP’s 2006 Physician Workforce Report.

“That means our residency programs must be graduating more than 4,400 new family physicians each year,” said King. “At the rate that we are training family physicians with this year’s Match, we are halfway there.

“So, although this year’s increase in interest in family medicine is very encouraging, we have a long way to go,” he continued. “We need to enhance and support education policies that recruit medical students who are likely to choose primary care careers, that support primary care graduate education programs and that support new family physicians as they begin their careers. That combination will keep the momentum up and help to resolve the crisis in primary care.”

Already, the nation is feeling the pinch, according to the 2007 Physician Survey by national physician recruiting company Merritt Hawkins, which said demand for family physicians has shot up by 84 percent since the company’s 2003-2004 report. Compensation offers have risen by 11 percent between 2007 and 2008 and virtually all recruiters are offering signing bonuses.

“If you ask today’s pre-med and medical students what they want to be, most of them will describe a career as a family doctor,” said King. “But they’ve been discouraged from family medicine for a number of reasons. They see their educational debt going up and look at a system that, until recently, placed little value on primary care. That attitude is changing and will continue to change. The people who pay for health care – whether they’re employers buying health benefits for their workers, the federal government paying for Medicare, states funding their Medicaid programs, or the patients themselves – are demanding a system that begins with primary care.

“Tomorrow’s family physicians have excellent career opportunities ahead of them, and today’s medical students realize that.”

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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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