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More Residencies but Less Primary Care

A recent Wall Street Journal article revealed that U.S. medical schools are trying to stem the physician shortage by expanding enrollment so they can produce 5,000 more graduates a year by 2019. However, to meet demand, they would have to expand the number of residencies available, which has been frozen since 1997. Since an increase in residencies would mean a substantial increase in Medicare to fund doctor-training, alternative solutions are being proposed by U.S. medical schools. One of those solutions is to prevent osteopathic and foreign medical graduates from securing these residencies

This shortsighted solution will not only contribute to the physician shortage but it will not fill the residencies available. There are currently more residency openings than physicians graduating from U.S. medical schools, many of them being primary care residencies, which consists of internal medicine, family medicine, and pediatrics. Currently, 25% of practicing physicians in the U.S. are from foreign medical schools and half of them are primary care physicians.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently increased their prediction for the physician shortage. There may be a shortage of 140,000 physicians by 2025. As of now, 1 in 5 Americans live in areas without adequate access to primary care physicians. As more baby boomers get older, more primary care physicians are needed than ever. Preventing foreign medical students from obtaining these positions will adversely affect public health for decades to come.