According to annual survey results published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), medical school administrators are worried about a lack of training resources for incoming students.
Although AAMC’s survey of 140 institutions found that enrollment is up 33% since 2002, it revealed that medical schools feel unable to address an anticipated physician shortage without sufficient clinical training sites, residency slots, and qualified preceptors. A majority (84%) of schools surveyed reported a shortage of primary care preceptors and nearly one-half (44%) were concerned about a lack of residency slots.
“Finishing medical school does not create a practicing physician,” said Suzanne Allen, MD, MPH, Vice Dean for Academic, Rural, and Regional Affairs at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “We really need that residency piece if we’re going to address the physician shortage.”
One hurdle to expanding graduate medical education is the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, which caps the amount of Medicare funding allocated to residency programs.
Uneven geographic distribution also contributes to the physician shortage. For example, there are far fewer residency programs in the northwestern U.S. than the northeast. “People are much more likely to set up their practice within a hundred miles of where they do their residency training than they are where they do medical school,” Dr. Allen said.
While data from the National Resident Matching Program shows that the number of graduate medical programs is growing (the proportion of residency slots to applicants at its highest since 2006), it isn’t enough to train the number of physicians needed in the U.S.