March 17, 2023, David Mitchell — Another Match Day, another record for family medicine!
Family medicine programs filled 4,530 positions in the National Resident Matching Program Main Residency Match, according to results released today. That’s 60 more than last year’s Match and 47 more than the previous record-breaking class in 2021.
Family medicine programs filled 88.3% of positions available in the main Match this year, when the number of participating family medicine-categorical and combined residency programs swelled to 773, up from 745 last year — the most programs of any specialty in the Match. Family medicine residencies offered 172 more positions this year, marking the 14th year in a row that the number of family medicine positions in the NRMP Match increased. When the results of this week’s Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program are added to the specialty’s main Match total, it’s likely that the incoming class of family medicine residents will top 5,000 individuals.
“We’ve grown to have more family medicine residency programs than ever,” said AAFP Vice President of Medical Education Karen Mitchell, M.D., who noted that family medicine is the largest single specialty focused on primary care in the Match, accounting for 13.6% of total positions offered.
Four medical students from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, (from left) Rosa Vasquez, Julie Ngo, Berenitze Balladares and Yadira Raya, celebrated Match Day on March 17.
“One of the things I’m pleased with is that the absolute number in the main Match is higher. The number of positions offered is higher, and we expect most positions offered in the SOAP to be filled.”
There were 589 family medicine positions unfilled in the main residency Match. For perspective, 465 family medicine positions were available in the 2022 SOAP, and 442 filled. In 2021, all but eight of 348 family medicine positions available in the SOAP were filled.
Of the students and graduates who filled family medicine slots in the main Match reported by the NRMP today:
“Family medicine leads the house of medicine in recruiting a workforce committed to primary care, training in the communities that need us the most all over the country,” said Mitchell, who noted that the AAFP publishes a deeper analysis of family medicine Match results each year. “One of the AAFP’s key strategies is to strengthen the pathway of family physicians to best care for our communities by growing residencies and supporting strong pathways to family medicine careers. Although the AAFP celebrates continued growth in the Match, we also acknowledge a complex, often inequitable system that continues to undervalue primary care.”
Family medicine claimed its historically large class despite the fact that the class of 2023 medical students had its entire four-year experience affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Family Medicine for America’s Health study discovered in 2019 — before the pandemic — that one of the key factors that influence students to choose family medicine as their specialty is exposure to high-quality family medicine preceptors who are enthusiastic about the specialty, practice broad-scope family medicine and offer examples of family medicine’s breadth and depth.
However, COVID-19 hit midway through the first year of medical school for most students graduating this spring. That limited medical students’ in-person exposure to family medicine rotations, curtailed family medicine interest group activity and moved many residency recruitment efforts online.
“We are working with a cohort of students whose clinical experiences were affected by the pandemic,” Mitchell said. “Students didn’t get the same experience in family medicine that they would have otherwise.”
Some students who did experience family medicine during the pandemic may not have seen it in the ideal circumstance that the authors of that 2019 study envisioned. A more recent study by Mayo Clinic researchers showed that family medicine and emergency medicine physicians were the most likely to suffer from burnout during the pandemic. (Emergency medicine also had more unfilled positions than in previous main Match results.)
“Coming out of the pandemic, we need to reinvigorate clinical opportunities for students and reinvigorate our FMIGs,” Mitchell said.
The AAFP has a free Best Practice Guide, developed in cooperation with the Association of Departments of Family Medicine, to help medical schools increase student choice in family medicine. It offers 10 evidence-based steps schools can take to build the primary care workforce.
Mitchell said that although the number of students choosing family medicine is increasing, the rate of that increase is inadequate to meet the projected demand for primary care as the U.S. population grows and ages. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates there will be a shortage of up to 48,000 primary care physicians by 2034.
Students matching in 2024 and beyond can access free, step-by-step guidance — from choosing a specialty to choosing a residency program — in the recently updated Strolling Through the Match. In addition, the AAFP’s National Conference of Family Medicine Residency and Medical Students will once again play host to one of the country’s largest residency fairs (and much more) July 27-29 in Kansas City, Mo.
“Family medicine has a bright future,” Mitchell said, “even as we acknowledge the challenges in the current health care system. Family medicine is poised to meet U.S. health care needs through a family physician workforce that mirrors the geographic distribution of the U.S. population, serving in rural and underserved urban communities, and treating a more diverse population of patients than any other medical specialty.”