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Examining the Doctor Shortage Across the Country

Pew Charitable Trusts published an in depth examination of the shortage of state medical residency programs across the United States. While many states in the Northeast, such as New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, are recruiting medical school graduates to train in their state, other parts of the country, including Iowa, Missouri and Tennessee, are losing medical residents due to insufficient residency slots. This becomes highly problematic when trying to recruit trained physicians to work in rural areas of these states, as physicians tend to establish their practice in the same region as their residency program.

Pew's study focuses on the importance of not only supporting medical schools, but also investing in residency programs in order to increase the numbers of doctors practicing within a state's borders.

ASPS has been working closely with members of Congress to advance legislation that would increase funding for medical graduate education. The Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act, introduced by Reps. Crowley and Boustany as well as Sens. Nelson and Schumer, will improve the nation's GME system and help to preserve access to specialty care by increasing the number of GME residency slots by 15,000 over the next 5 years. Notably, this legislation will direct half of the newly available positions to training in shortage specialties.

The number of Medicare funded Graduate Medical Education (GME) positions in the United States has remained capped since the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, an overall shortage of 91,000 physicians will occur by 2020. By 2025, the shortage is expected to reach 130,000. One-half of this shortage will come from specialty physicians, including physicians in the field of plastic surgery.