Family medicine sees better Match

Matches among U.S. seniors still declined, for the seventh consecutive year, but the total lifted slightly.

By Myrle Croasdale — Posted April 5, 2004

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An extended downturn in the number of U.S. seniors interested in primary care showed signs of slowing in this year's National Resident Matching Program held March 18.

In family medicine, the number of U.S. seniors from allopathic schools matching in the field dropped for the seventh consecutive year. But the decline was small, with 1,185 U.S. seniors matching in family medicine this year, compared with 1,226 in 2003. When including international medical graduates and medical students from osteopathic schools, family medicine saw a net increase of 17 matches. For 2004, 2,256 positions were filled, compared with 2,239 last year.

Michael Fleming, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said the news was positive, but those in family medicine needed to continue to encourage medical students to choose the field.

"U.S. medical school graduates tend to stay in the U.S. and care for patients here, while international medical graduates tend to return to their own countries," Dr. Fleming said.

Internal medicine faired somewhat better, with 2,602 U.S. seniors matching, up from 2,590 last year. Overall 97.4% of first-year positions were filled in internal medicine, its highest rate in recent years.

Ob-gyn also saw a dip, with 743 U.S. seniors matching, down from 786 a year ago. But total slots filled were up at 1,066, with the fill rate at 93.3%.

Pediatrics saw a slight increase, with the number of U.S. senior matches rising by 15 to 1,611 and total filled positions increasing by 64 to 2,163.

Robert Beran, PhD, executive director of the NRMP, said students continue to cite lifestyle and debt issues as reasons for steering away from primary care.

Looking at the fill rates for specialties, it's clear demand is strong, he said. For example, dermatology, radiology and anesthesiology had fill rates at or near 100%.

Dr. Beran said that although the antitrust lawsuit against the Match was moving forward, it didn't seem to affect participation in the program. The NRMP made its largest number of first-year matches ever this year at 19,392.

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Family practice matches down, specialties up

Here is how U.S. seniors matched over the last five years.

For PGY-1, family
and internal medicine
For PGY-1, dermatology,
radiology and anesthesiology
2000 4,617 321
2001 4,301 387
2002 4,137 446
2003 3816 462
2004 3,787 473

Source: National Resident Matching Program 2004 data

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