Match Results Show Resurgence in Family Medicine Interest

By News Staff
http://www.aafp.org

Interest in family medicine among U.S. medical students surged in 2008, and evidence of that growth came on March 20 when the National Resident Matching Program, or NRMP, announced the 2008 Match results.

The results show that 1,172 U.S. medical school graduates — 65 more than in 2007 — chose family medicine for their careers, and 2,404 of 2,654 family medicine residency positions were taken, for a fill rate of nearly 91 percent.

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We’re extremely pleased with this year’s Match,” said AAFP President Jim King, M.D., of Selmer, Tenn. “It’s significant on several levels: More U.S. graduates chose family medicine, we increased the number of positions offered through the Match, and — because students are recognizing the value of family medicine — we set a 10-year 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.

Family medicine and other primary care specialties have ranked tops in the number of recruitment requests fielded by Merritt Hawkins, a national physician recruitment firm. The company’s report, 2007 Review of Physician and CRNA Recruiting Incentives, (17-page PDF; About PDFs) showed an 84 percent increase in demand for family physicians since 2003-04 and an 11 percent increase in FP compensation offers from 2005-06 to 2006-07. Moreover, signing bonuses for primary care physicians are virtually universal, the report said.

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 this year’s Match does not mean that the national shortage of primary care physicians is in any way solved. We need a major increase in both the number and distribution of family physicians if we’re to end this shortage. Although this year’s increase in interest in family medicine is very encouraging, we have a long way to go.”

This year’s turnaround likely reflects medical students’ awareness that family medicine is seeing impressive growth in demand, according to Perry Pugno, M.D., M.P.H., director of the AAFP Division of Medical Education. He said efforts during the past four years to reach out to medical students are beginning to pay off. The AAFP and its sister organizations in family medicine have implemented a coordinated student outreach plan designed to communicate the values of family medicine, the specialty’s importance to the health care system and the rewards of a career in family medicine.

“Medical students are smart,” said Pugno. “They can see the escalating demand and the growing recognition of our critical need for primary care physicians, especially family physicians.”

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

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