Residency Slots a "Serious, Looming Concern"
"It is very encouraging to see consistent increases in the number and diversity of students in medical school," Dr Kirch said in the release. "We are hopeful that this becomes a long-term trend as medical schools continue working in their communities to diversify the applicant pool through pipeline programs, outreach efforts, and holistic review initiatives."
However, a "serious concern looming over all this," he told reporters, is that federal funding for residency positions has "essentially been frozen" since 1997. "That means that while medical schools over the last decade have responded to the growing population, the increasingly diverse population, by increasing class size, by starting new schools, by pushing their diversity efforts, there is a blockage in terms of availability of residency positions," he warned.
"We have bills that are sitting in Congress now that would increase residency positions by 3000 positions a year for the next 5 years. Unless Congress acts, I fear for the ability of patients, even patients with good health insurance, to access physicians when they need it. Physician shortages won't just happen in remote rural areas. They will happen in urban and undeserved communities and ultimately affect all of us," Dr Kirch said.