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Saturday Feb 11, 2012

Building Student Interest Focus of Family Medicine Stakeholders

Twice a year, the leaders of a number of family medicine groups -- the AAFP, AAFP Foundation, American Board of Family Medicine, Association of Departments of Family Medicine, Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors, Council of Academic Family Medicine, North American Primary Care Research Group and Society of Teachers of Family Medicine -- gather to discuss issues vital to our specialty.

One of the great things about these regular meetings is that they bring together people and organizations interested in the same things: the specialty of family medicine and the patients we serve. This time allows each of us to get perspective from the other groups, paint a more complete picture of a given issue and develop potential solutions to problems.

During the recent San Diego meeting of this "family" of family medicine, possibly the hottest discussion topic was the status of medical student interest in family medicine. All of the residency directors I talked with are encouraged by the trends they see in their programs, including an increasing number of U.S. graduate applicants, more total applicants and a high caliber of applicants.

In addition, for the second year in a row, the number of medical students entering family medicine increased in the 2011 National Resident Matching Program. Family medicine residency programs filled 2,576 positions of the 2,730 offered, for a record fill rate of 94.4 percent. The 3 percent increase was impressive considering that the programs offered 100 more positions than in 2010. The number of U.S. medical school graduates picking family medicine increased by 133 compared to 2010.

The 2012 Match is scheduled for March 16, and I'm optimistic that these trends will continue.

Despite our recent improvements in the Match, however, not enough medical students are entering primary care to replace retiring physicians. A shortage of 45,000 primary care physicians is expected in the next decade.

The AAFP continues to work hard on building student interest in family medicine, and we're seeing some success with that. In fact, student membership in the AAFP climbed to 17,100 members last year, up from 14,100 in 2010. And, we are continuing to experience significant growth this year.

As part of our continuing commitment to family medicine students, the AAFP held four regional workshops from June 2010 to October 2011 to address the student interest issue. Building collaborative relationships was a key theme of the workshops because student interest cannot be achieved without buy-in from all stakeholders.

Participants in the workshops included Family Medicine Interest Group faculty advisors, family medicine medical student education directors, residency directors, department chairs and deans, practicing physicians, resident and student leaders, AAFP chapters, and directors of Area Health Education Centers.

These stakeholders worked together at the regional meetings to come up with potential strategies to increase student interest in family medicine in their geographic areas. Academy staff is following up on these state and regional plans to identify best practices that can be shared nationally.

A final report, which will be the basis of a new student interest model for the Academy, is expected to be presented to the AAFP Board of Directors in April.

 I will keep you informed.

Comments:

Dr Stream, I'm glad there has been an increase in US medical school graduates going into Family Medicine residencies and an increase in Family Medicine fill rates. I know our state medical school has increased it's class size by about 25% for the last 4 or 5 years. I suspect other medical schools have also increased class sizes. How does the recent increased interest in family medicine by US trained physicians compare to previous years as a percentage of the graduating class size? In other words, are there more US trained physicians competing for a fixed number of total residency positions in all specialties and therefor some end up going into Family Medicine by default?

Posted by Jim Nordal on February 14, 2012 at 07:01 PM CST #

Excellent question. About 8% of the roughly 17,000 allopathic US medical graduates currently select family medicine residencies. Not all family medicine residency positions fill and a large number are filled with international and osteopathic medical graduates. It doesn't appear that shortage of other specialty residency positions is driving US medical grads to family medicine. AAFP continues to advocate for an increase in family medicine residency training positions to address the shortage of family physicians. There are certainly shortages in other specialties which warrant increases in their residency training positions as well.

Posted by Glen Stream, MD on February 19, 2012 at 09:33 PM CST #

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The opinions and views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the opinions and views of the American Academy of Family Physicians. This blog is not intended to provide medical, financial, or legal advice. All comments are moderated and will be removed if they violate our Terms of Use.