March 18, 2022, 4:20 p.m. David Mitchell — Despite pandemic-related issues that limited medical students’ in-person exposure to family medicine rotations, hindered family medicine interest group activities and kept most residency recruitment efforts in a virtual format, National Resident Matching Program Main Residency Match results released March 18 indicated continued growth for family medicine.
Family medicine programs filled 4,470 positions in the main Match, 23 fewer than last year, for a fill rate of 90.6%. However, 16 more family medicine programs participated in the Match compared to a year ago, offering nearly 100 additional positions. That means that when the results of this week’s Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program are added to the total, it’s likely that the 2022 class of family medicine residents will be the largest in the specialty’s history.
“Given the challenges of the pandemic, the fact that the Match results were so close to last year’s tells us family medicine is just as appealing to medical students as it ever has been,” said Karen Mitchell, M.D., the AAFP’s Vice President of Medical Education. “Medical students’ family medicine exposure was significantly limited, delayed, canceled or changed to virtual experiences the past two years, which hindered their ability to witness the interpersonal, face-to-face care that is at the core of family medicine. Students had fewer clinical opportunities to experience the breadth of family medicine and develop the depth of relationships with patients and preceptors. The Match results indicate the resilience of this class of students and reinforce my optimism about the future growth of family medicine as in-person clinical experiences resume.”
It is anticipated that the majority of the 465 family medicine slots unfilled in the main residency Match were filled through the SOAP. For perspective, 348 family medicine positions were available in the 2021 SOAP, and 340 filled. A comprehensive report from the NRMP, which will include SOAP results, is expected this spring.
Of the students and graduates who filled family medicine slots in the main Match today:
The number of family medicine positions in the NRMP Match grew for the 13th year in a row, and strengthening and expanding residency training programs remains a top priority for the AAFP. The Health Resources and Services Administration recently announced it would allocate $19.2 million from the American Rescue Plan to fund 120 residents participating in the Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education program. With the AAFP’s backing, the American Rescue Plan initially invested $330 million in the THCGME program, which supports training primary care and dental residents in community-based care settings, in 2020.
“Family medicine is needed now more than ever,” said Mitchell, who pointed out that the adaptability and broad practice scope of family physicians have allowed them to play critical roles in combating the pandemic, working in inpatient settings — including intensive care units — in addition to practicing ambulatory, front-line care and playing important roles in COVID-19 testing and vaccination efforts. “More family physicians means better access to care and better health outcomes for patients.”
Family medicine had enjoyed 12 consecutive years of growth and 10 consecutive years that an all-time record number of students matched into family medicine in the NRMP Main Match before this year. The Association of American Medical Colleges projects a shortage of up to 48,000 primary care physicians by 2034.
“Amid a public health crisis and a population with diverse health care needs, we need more family physicians to curb the primary care shortage in the U.S.,” said AAFP Senior Vice President of Education Margot Savoy, M.D., M.P.H. “When a student matches into family medicine, we get closer to this goal and closer to ensuring accessible, affordable and equitable care for our patients and the country.”
Many student activities are returning to an in-person format, including the AAFP’s National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students, which was held virtually the past two years. National Conference offers students the opportunity to explore family medicine through educational sessions, clinical skills workshops and networking, as well as allowing them to meet faculty and residents from hundreds of programs during the nation’s largest specialty residency fair.
Mitchell said family medicine aligns with students’ growing passion for things like health equity, social justice, strong patient relationships, and versatility and adaptability in a career. She also noted that family physician preceptors are able to engage with students again, and the specialty needs more preceptors so students can experience the comprehensive nature of family medicine.
“As the number of face-to-face encounters rises again, it increases the opportunities for students to experience family medicine in its full breadth,” Mitchell said.
FMIGs also are becoming more active, creating more in-person opportunities for students to explore family medicine, learn about issues such as social determinants of health and develop leadership skills. The AAFP supports the future family medicine workforce by offering free medical student membership and supporting a national network of FMIGs at medical schools.
AAFP President Sterling Ransone, M.D., of Deltaville, Va., called family physicians “the backbone of care for patients of all ages and genders,” and welcomed the new class to the specialty.
“We congratulate and applaud each of the students who matched into family medicine this year, a specialty that is critical to protecting public health,” Ransone said. “Primary care is more important than ever, and we commend every student who has chosen to practice in this profession.”