Residency Match Results Encouraging for Adults Needing Primary Care

March 18, 2011

The 2011 National Resident Matching Program report released yesterday shows an 8% increase from last year

The increase in the number of US medical students choosing internal medicine residencies in 2011 is a positive sign toward easing the primary care workforce shortage, according to the American College of Physicians (ACP).

The 2011 National Resident Matching Program report released yesterday shows an 8% increase from last year, with 2,940 US seniors at medical schools enrolling in an internal medicine residency program, compared to 2,722 in 2010. This is the second consecutive year that internal medicine enrollment numbers have increased. This trend follows a two year decline from 2007 to 2009 (2,680 in 2007; 2,660 in 2008; and 2,632 in 2009).

“This is good news for internal medicine and adult patient care in the US,” J. Fred Ralston, Jr. MD, president of the ACP, said in a statement. “The American College of Physicians has consistently called for health care reforms that support internal medicine as a career path, including increasing support for primary care training programs, increasing Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement to primary care physicians, and expanding pilot testing and implementation of new models of patient care.”

While ACP welcomed the trend of more US students choosing internal medicine residencies, the organization cautioned that increasing the nation’s primary care workforce has a long way to go to meet the needs of an aging population requiring care for chronic and complex illnesses.

“We’re cautiously optimistic and hope that the positive trend continues,” said Steven Weinberger, MD, executive vice president and CEO of the ACP. “But the US still has to overcome a generational shift that resulted in decreased numbers of students choosing primary care as a career. In 1985, 3,884 US medical school graduates chose internal medicine residency programs. And the 18.9% of US seniors that matched internal medicine in 2011 is the same percentage as 2007.”

The 2011 match numbers include students who will ultimately enter a subspecialty of internal medicine, such as cardiology or gastroenterology. Currently, about 20% to 25% of internal medicine residents eventually choose to specialize in general internal medicine, compared with 54% in 1998.