This Month's News
AMA calls for more residency slots, launches grassroots campaign
If the United States is to stave off projected physician shortages, graduate medical education (GME) must be strengthened nationally, the AMA cautioned in recent testimony before the Institute of Medicine.
"As millions of Americans obtain health insurance and can access needed health care, it is critical that our nation ensures a strong and viable physician workforce so patients can get the care they need," said Susan E. Skochelak, MD, AMA Group Vice President for Medical Education, in a news release. "The AMA supports multiple methods to help ease existing and predicted shortages, including increasing the number of residency training positions to alleviate physician shortages and ensure patient access to care."
While new U.S. medical schools are opening, and many medical schools are expanding their enrollments to meet the need for more physicians, residency programs are experiencing minimal growth due to limited federal funding. The number of residency slots has been frozen by the federal government since 1997. Without more funding for these positions, the physician workforce cannot grow to meet the needs of the nation's 300 million people.
The AMA has launched a new grassroots campaign to raise awareness in Congress of the need to preserve funding for residency training in the federal budget.
Other organizations that testified before the IOM also cited the need for an adequate physician workforce. For example, Ralph G. Dacey, Jr., MD, president of the Society of Neurological Surgeons, noted the long education/training pipeline for neurosurgeons and the growing burden on the nation's aging population of "debilitating and life threatening neurological problems such as stroke, degenerative spine disease, and Parkinson's and other movement disorders."
In related news, AMA President Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD addressed the media in early December on the issue of GME funding. "The number of available residency spots has been frozen since the mid-1990s, and it's something that organizations like the American Medical Association are working to change," noted one news report.