Shortage of residency positions for international medical school graduates in the future? Yes.
Google “shortage of doctors” and you’ll find that almost everyone believes what the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) says—that we will need 90,000 to 130,000 more doctors by the year 2025.
There are a few naysayers such as Gail Wilensky, a health economist and co-chair of the Institute of Medicine panel that found no evidence to support those estimates and Princeton health economist Uwe Reinhardt, who says it’s in the best interests of the AAMC to predict a shortage.
A 2012 survey found that one-third of US physicians planned to retire by 2022. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are just over 900,000 active physicians in the US, meaning that if the survey is correct, about 300,000 doctors will have stopped practicing by 2022.
The AAMC says that about 18,000 medical students graduated from US schools in 2015. Will that be enough to replace those who say they are quitting? The number of residency positions available for med school graduates was 27,860 in the 2016 match.
If you multiply 27,860 residency slots x 10 years (between the years 2012 and 2022) you get 278,600, which approaches the projected number of 300,000 retirees lost.
No matter which side of the debate is correct, international medical graduates (IMGs) will be adversely affected. Here is why.
According to Wikipedia and Becker's Hospital Review, more than 40 MD or DO medical schools will be opening in the next few years. That is in addition to the 10 or 12 new schools that have already admitted their first classes. Established schools are also increasing class sizes to meet the perceived demand.
Using conservative hypothetical numbers, the 40 or so new US schools plus the increased class sizes of other schools will turn out at least 3000 to 4000 more new grads per year to compete for residency programs as of 2022.
The number of residency positions is unlikely to increase as dramatically because additional government funding for residency training has not been forthcoming.
Here is the breakdown of the 2016 match by types of individuals filling positions.
Of the 2869 US IMGs placed, 896 were graduates of St. George’s and 778 graduated from Ross. That means 58% of US IMGs matched in 2016 were from just two Caribbean schools.
As US MD and DO schools start cranking out their 3000 or 4000 extra grads, fewer residency positions will be available for all other groups.
Consider your career choices carefully, my friends.
If you haven't read it, see this post on residency prospects for IMGs.