RESTON, Virginia - November 2 - The American Medical Student Association today announced that it endorses a new workforce policy released last week by the American Academy of Family Physicians’ (AAFP) that calls for a 39 percent increase in the number of family physicians by 2020.
The new “Family Physician Workforce Reform” study confirms data showing the U.S. does not have an adequate number of primary care physicians; specifically family physicians. The new AAFP policy supports another report released earlier this year by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) recommending a 30 percent increase in medical school enrollment within the next decade.
To meet the anticipated primary care needs in 2020, the U.S. must have a ratio of 41.6 family physicians per 100,000 people. To reach this goal, each of the family medicine residency programs must increase residency slots by an average of three (from 21 to 24 slots). Additionally, each year the nation’s medical education programs must graduate 3,725 family physicians from Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-accredited residencies and 714 from American Osteopathic Association-accredited residencies.
One in four U.S. counties has already been designated a primary care shortage area, and states needing the biggest increase in family physicians by 2020 include Virginia (44 percent increase), Texas (52 percent), Florida (63 percent), Arizona (76 percent) and Nevada (79 percent). The steady decline in the percentage of U.S. physicians who were family physicians began in 1980, according to a 2004 report of the Annals of Family Medicine. The percentage of U.S. medical graduates interested in pursuing family medicine also has been dropping, with a meager 13 percent of the 2007 internal medicine graduates planning to enter the primary care medical field.
As a starting point, the AAFP proposes pushing medical school admissions committees to revise their criteria to encourage students from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. The AAFP has also identified a number of goals it recommends to help reform the family physician workforce, including supporting efforts to ensure health care access for all Americans, the establishment of a public-private entity to apportion graduate medical education funding, and working with residency programs to better train family physicians to care for the growing U.S. population, as well as lobbying for preferential funding to residency programs that support diversity and produce physicians most likely to practice in underserved communities.
“The results of this study confirm what most of us already feel - that the current health care system is failing to meet the needs of most Americans and needs a great deal of reform,” says AMSA President Jay Bhatt. “AMSA commends the AAFP for its efforts in preventing the predicted shortage, and hopes that educational institutions and policymakers will begin taking serious measures to encourage more physicians to practice primary care, particularly family medicine.”
The study, titled “Family Physician Workforce Reform: Recommendations of the American Academy of Family Physicians,” was conducted by consultants from the University of Utah School of Medicine and the Utah Medical Education Council. It has been approved by the AAFP Congress of Delegates as the organization’s official workforce policy.
To view the report
The AMSA Foundation sponsors National Primary Care Week (NPCW), an annual program in which students create programs highlighting the benefits of a career in primary care. NPCW 2006 "Addressing Health Disparities: Healing the Nation," is scheduled for October 15-21, 2006, aims to focus the attention of health professional students from all disciplines on the failure of the healthcare system to provide equal, high quality health care to all individuals, regardless of ethnicity, race and other factors, and to provide students with the tools to address these inequalities. For more details, visit www.amsa.org/programs/npcw/