Expanding Medical Education to Address Physician Shortages

The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted policy at its Annual Meeting reaffirming the need for an increased number of medical residency slots to ensure that patients have access to an adequate physician workforce. As new medical schools have been established and enrollment in existing schools has expanded in recent years to help ease existing and predicted physician shortages, the new policy calls on legislators, private sector partnerships, and existing and planned medical schools to create and fund graduate medical education (GME) programs that can accommodate the equivalent number of additional medical school graduates, consistent with U.S. workforce needs.

“Current data show that the number of U.S. medical student graduates is growing at a higher rate than the number of residency slots. Without expanding the number of residency positions available to future classes of medical school graduates, the number of graduates seeking positions will eventually exceed what is available,” said AMA Board Member and medical student Karthik V. Sarma, M.S. “The AMA will continue to vigorously advocate for the continued and expanded contribution by all health care payers at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as private sources, to adequately fund GME. We believe that it is imperative that efforts to expand the number of medical school graduates also address the need to ensure the availability of an adequate number of GME slots to meet the newly created demand.”

The new policy asks medical school accrediting bodies to prospectively and retrospectively monitor medical school graduates’ rates of placement into GME as well as GME completion. In order to better prepare students entering a physician workforce that may have constraints in its capacity to grow, the AMA also encourages medical schools to increase their efforts to educate students concerning educational debt, medical specialty choice, and potential career paths. The new policy specifically encourages all existing and planned medical schools to thoroughly research residency Match statistics and other career placement metrics when developing these career guidance plans.

The AMA has been a long-time advocate for modernizing GME. This includes increasing funding for medical residency slots, developing innovative practice models, and creating residency positions that reflect patient and societal needs. Most recently, the AMA urged support for two federal bills. These include the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2017, which would expand Medicare funding for 15,000 additional residency positions, and the Advancing Medical Resident Training in Community Hospitals Act of 2017, which would close a loophole in GME cap-setting criteria affecting hospitals who host small numbers of residents for temporary training assignments, also known as “resident rotators.”

The AMA also supports the maintenance and expansion of GME as part of its SaveGME campaign. This initiative urges Congress to protect federal funding for graduate medical education, which supports access to care in undersupplied specialties and underserved areas.

Launched in 2013, the AMA’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education initiative also addresses some of these issues by supporting medical school projects aimed at accelerating student progression through medical school allowing them to enter residency sooner and contribute more rapidly to addressing physician shortages.

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Media Contact:
Kelly Jakubek
(312) 464-4443
Email: Kelly.Jakubek@ama-assn.org

About the AMA

The American Medical Association is the powerful ally and unifying voice for America’s physicians, the patients they serve, and the promise of a healthier nation. The AMA attacks the dysfunction in health care by removing obstacles and burdens that interfere with patient care. It reimagines medical education, training, and lifelong learning for the digital age to help physicians grow at every stage of their careers, and it improves the health of the nation by confronting the increasing chronic disease burden. For more information, visit ama-assn.org.
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