More Medical School Students Opting For Family Medicine Careers, Data Show

September 04, 2013 04:45 pm James Arvantes

The percentage of medical school graduates choosing family medicine residencies has jumped by nearly 10 percent during the past five years, an increase that demonstrates the growing popularity of family medicine as a career choice, according to Perry Pugno, M.D., vice president for medical education at the AAFP.

[Stock photo of doctor looking over paperwork with two female med. students ]

The AAFP conducts an annual survey of the nation's family medicine residency programs, and according to those data, 67.4 percent of first-year family medicine residents graduated from U.S. allopathic or osteopathic medical schools this year, making 2013 the fifth straight year the percentage has increased. In 2009, 58 percent of first-year family medicine residents graduated from a U.S. allopathic or osteopathic medical school.

"This is another indicator that medical students realize primary care is the foundation of health care," said Pugno in a recent press release. "The number of students choosing family medicine in the annual Match (National Resident Matching Program) continues to increase, and the attendance at the AAFP's National Conference for Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students has really increased. All of these point to a trend toward primary care careers."

Pugno added, however, that the nation is not producing enough family physicians to meet the growing demand for primary care and family physician services, especially as the population ages and more people gain access to health care coverage through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The nation is producing about 3,500 family physicians a year, but will need about 40,000 more FPs by 2020 to address current and anticipated demand, said Pugno in an interview with AAFP News Now.

He described medical students as "savvy consumers of information," saying "they recognize that the demand for primary care is clearly going to escalate."

"They see the results of studies from across the nation showing that a robust primary care base achieves better care, better patient experience and better health, and that it does so at a lower cost," said Pugno.