Workforce Policy and Priorities
AAMC-member medical schools and teaching hospitals play a crucial role in preparing future physicians who help create a healthier future for all. With the AAMC projecting a physician shortage between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034, programs that invest in training future doctors are more crucial now than ever before. Additionally, if health care access were equitable across race, health insurance coverage, and geographic location, the United States would require up to 180,400 more physicians as of today.
Federal programs administered through Medicare, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Department of Education, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and Department of Defense (DoD) are fundamental for training a robust and diverse health care workforce that is ready to serve our nation’s most vulnerable patients and address any public health emergency.
HRSA Health Workforce Programs
The HRSA Title VII workforce development programs are crucial in training a diverse and culturally competent health workforce to treat our nation’s most vulnerable patients. The Title VII programs, funded through annual federal appropriations for the Department of Health and Human Services, invest in scholarship, loan repayment, and mentorship programs for future health care professionals from underrepresented minority, rural, and disadvantaged backgrounds. The HRSA programs also support interprofessional training in community-based settings to help shape the nation’s health workforce across primary care, public health, geriatric, and mental health disciplines.
The AAMC leads the Health Professions and Nursing Education Coalition (HPNEC), a coalition of over 90 health professions organizations advocating for increased funding for the HRSA Title VII health professions and Title VIII nursing workforce programs.
Graduate Medical Education (GME) — clinical training at teaching hospitals for our future physicians after medical school — is crucial in addressing America’s current and future physician shortage. Unfortunately, Medicare-supported training positions have been effectively frozen since 1997. Increasing federal investment in GME is the first step in producing more physicians to care for our nation’s patients. Additionally, the AAMC supports Children’s Hospital GME and Teaching Health Centers GME, administered by HRSA, as well as GME programs administered by the VA and DoD, which provide vital support for training physicians in primary care and a multitude of subspecialties.
- AAMC Statement on the Introduction of the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act
- AAMC Response to Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Enhancing our Health Workforce
- Investing in the Nation’s Health Infrastructure for a Better Future (Video)
- The Role of GME Funding in Addressing the Physician Shortage
Student Aid and Service Programs
While medical school remains an excellent personal financial investment, federal student loans administered by the Department of Education — such as Direct Unsubsidized and GradPLUS loans that cover the full cost of attendance — help students from disadvantaged backgrounds access financing. The AAMC continues to advocate for these loan programs, which are available to all students pursuing a medical degree.
Additionally, federal recruitment programs, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness, the National Health Service Corps, and those administered by the VA, DoD, and HHS’ Indian Health Service, encourage graduates to pursue careers that benefit communities in need by providing student loan relief to physicians who serve in Health Professional Shortage Areas and nonprofit or government facilities. Federal financial and policy support for these programs ultimately help improve the health of individuals and communities.
Immigration and DACA
A balanced approach to immigration and citizenship policy that attracts and retains the best and brightest from around the world is necessary for our nation’s health security. The U.S. health workforce and the patients it serves rely on health professionals from other countries, including many through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. These providers add diversity of culture and experience to our nation’s workforce. Their importance is amplified each year, as the nation faces growing physician workforce shortages that have been felt acutely during the COVID-19 national emergency.
AAMC member teaching hospitals and medical schools require a stable immigration system to attract talented students, trainees, and staff for vital education, research, and clinical programs. To ensure that undocumented members of the health care workforce are able to continue their employment, education, training, and research in the United States, the AAMC advocates to protect DACA and urges Congress to enact legislation that would provide a permanent pathway to citizenship for these individuals. To avoid training disruptions and strained patient coverage, predictable and transparent immigration processes are important for timely onboarding of new medical residents each year on J-1 and H-1B visas. Well-considered immigration policies, such as the Conrad 30 J-1 visa wavier program, also help rural and other underserved communities recruit physicians. Congress should make permanent and expand the Conrad 30 program to help vulnerable patients affected by nationwide physician workforce shortages.
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