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Match Day 2013

March 15, 2013

It’s Match Day—a day of nerves and celebration for medical school seniors when they find out where they will spend the next three to seven years completing the graduate medical training they need to become practicing physicians.

The excitement of this rite of passage is dampened by the surprising news we are hearing from our medical schools that there are a number of highly qualified U.S. medical school students did not match to residency training positions.

We knew this day was coming. For a while now, the AAMC has been telling policymakers about a looming doctor shortage—estimated to reach 91,500 physicians by 2020 as the Baby Boomers age and join the ranks of the most medically needy. With 45,000 too few primary care physicians and a deficit of more than 46,000 specialists projected, this means that a growing number of patients with cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, hip fractures and other ailments will be without immediate access to necessary care in the relatively near future.

As part of the solution for alleviating this shortage, medical schools have committed to increasing enrollment 30 percent by 2016. But Congress has not yet done its part by lifting the cap it imposed in 1997 on federal support for graduate medical education (GME) positions. Without an increase in federal support for doctor training, all these new medical school graduates may not be able to complete their training and begin to care for patients. If Congress does not act soon to ease the doctor shortage, sequestration and proposed funding cuts that will severely impact teaching hospitals’ ability to train the next generation of physicians will make the squeeze even tighter for future graduates.

There is hope, however. Representatives Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) and Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) have introduced the bipartisan “Training Tomorrow’s Doctors Today Act” (H.R. 1201) to increase the number of residency positions by 3,000 annually for the next five years (total 15,000 slots). Additionally, Senators Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) unveiled their version of the legislation, the “Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2013” (S. 577) , which also increases the number of residency positions by 3,000 for the next five years.

These lawmakers understand that it’s up to Congress to fix this problem. Inaction will only mean extensive shortages of both primary care physicians and a wide range of specialists. While reducing our nation’s deficit is important, just ask yourself: If there aren’t enough doctors, what will you do?  

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About the Author

Atul Grover, MD, PhD AAMC Executive Vice President

Atul Grover, MD, PhD
AAMC Executive Vice President

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For More Information

Peters Willson
Sr. Specialist, Policy and Constituency Issues
Telephone: 202-862-6029