• It’s a Match: Family Medicine Celebrates a Decade of Growth in the Specialty


    Friday, March 15, 2019

    Stephanie Wilken
    American Academy of Family Physicians
    (800) 274-2237, Ext. 6053

    LEAWOOD, Kan. — Today marks 10 years in a row of growth in students matching into family medicine, according to the National Residency Matching Program® Main Residency Match results released Friday. To rival this decade of growth, the specialty celebrates the seventh year in a row for a new all-time record of students matching into family medicine.

    The NRMP, also known as the Match, aligns graduating medical students with residency training programs in specialties the students pursue.

    This year, the total number of NRMP Match participants matching into family medicine was 3,848, up 313 from the 3,535 in 2018. These data include 1,617 graduating seniors from U.S. allopathic medical schools, but do not provide specific data regarding graduates of U.S. osteopathic colleges of medicine. While the move toward single accreditation makes precise year-to-year comparison difficult, the overall growth is still a step in the right direction for family medicine, said John Cullen, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

    “Public health is dependent upon a strong foundation of primary care,” Cullen said. “Family medicine is a strong indicator of the future primary care workforce because family medicine residency graduates go on to practice primary care at a much higher rate (90%+) than other primary care specialties, according to the Council on Graduate Medical Education.

    “This milestone of a decade of growth, while welcome, is just the beginning.”

    The AAFP and its Family Medicine for America’s Health colleague organizations are already executing an ambitious plan, launched in 2018, to help provide the United States with the primary care workforce it needs to protect public health in the years ahead. The plan, known as the America Needs More Family Doctors: 25 x 2030 Collaborative, is poised to help more than double the rate of U.S. medical students pursuing family medicine.

    At a time when the country’s current shortage is predicted to reach more than 52,000 primary care physicians by 2025, and experts call for an increase in the proportion of U.S. physicians practicing primary care from 32 percent to 40 percent, the family medicine community is dedicated to doing its part to meet the need, Cullen said. Achieving these goals, analysts say, will rebalance the U.S. physician workforce to provide a better health care experience, improved health of populations and reduced per capita costs of health care.

    “Our efforts will empower family physicians and family medicine allies in and outside of medicine who care about building a robust and diverse primary care workforce to inspire, support and encourage students, and create and advocate for policies and standards that advance primary care,” Cullen said.

    While a net positive, there’s still a long road ahead: As programs across the specialty welcome new residents to family medicine, the 2019 data is yet another indication of the damaged American health care system, said Clif Knight, MD, AAFP senior vice president of education.

    “An increase is good news, but it’s not enough to support the future of family medicine and primary care,” Knight said. “As our population ages and grows, we need to see significantly accelerated growth in students choosing family medicine.

    “The data released today, while a positive, is not the revolutionary change we need to see in the workforce to treat the entire population, throughout the lifespan. This slow growth is the canary in the coal mine.”

    Student choice is impacted by several factors. First, students need to see the specialty promoted and supported by medical schools. Medical schools also must promote the opportunity for students to connect with role models and to promote a strong understanding of the specialty and the potential of how a family physician can impact others. Payment reform is also necessary to help students understand family medicine is a valued specialty.

    “Our work will help heal the broken health care system by tearing down the barriers to student choice in family medicine and building the workforce America needs,” Knight said.

    "We’re all in this together,” Cullen said. “We are committed to repairing the primary care pipeline to provide a better health care experience, reduce costs and improve the health of the public. The future of primary care—and health care in our country—is dependent upon it.”

    For additional information, analysis, graphs and more, visit the AAFP Match Day 2019 Media kit at: https://www.aafp.org/media-center/kits/match-day-2019.html.


    Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 133,500 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.