Author: Victoria Knight
Despite hospital systems and health officials calling out the need for more primary care doctors, graduates of U.S. medical schools are becoming less likely to choose to specialize in one of those fields.
A record-high number of primary care positions was offered in the 2019 National Resident Matching Program — known to doctors as “the Match.” It determines where a medical student will study in their chosen specialty after graduation. But this year, the percentage of primary care positions filled by fourth-year medical students was the lowest on record.
“I think part of it has to do with income,” said Mona Signer, the CEO of the Match. “Primary care specialties are not the highest paying.” She suggested that where a student gets a degree also influences the choice. “Many medical schools are part of academic medical centers where research and specialization is a priority,” she said.
The three key primary care fields are internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics. According to the 2019 Match report, 8,116 internal medicine positions were offered, the highest number on record and the most positions offered within any specialty, but only 41.5% were filled by seniors pursuing their M.D.s from U.S. medical schools. Similar trends were seen this year in family medicine and pediatrics.
In their final year of medical school, students apply and interview for residency programs in their chosen specialty. The Match, a nonprofit group, then assigns them a residency program based on how the applicant and the program ranked each other.
Since 2011, the percentage of U.S.-trained allopathic, or M.D., physicians who have matched into primary care positions has been on the decline, according to an analysis of historical Match data by Kaiser Health News.
But, over the same period, the percentage of U.S.-trained osteopathic and foreign-trained physicians matching into primary care roles has increased. 2019 marks the first year in which the percentage of osteopathic and foreign-trained doctors surpassed the percentage of U.S. trained medical doctors matching into primary care positions.
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