The Pulse
12:53 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Match Day Sees More Primary Care Residencies

Match Day was Friday for fourth year medical students around the country. It's an annual rite, the moment when students find out whether and where they'll be doing their residency. It's a big deal because where you do your residency matters on so many levels - from the number of years you'll spend there, to the quality of the doctors who train you, to the opportunities you'll have to deepen your specialty. And many residents end up staying where they train.

Students gather in the lobby of the Brown medical school building to learn their fates on Match Day 2014.
Students gather in the lobby of the Brown medical school building to learn their fates on Match Day 2014.
Credit David Orenstein / Brown University

Match Day Results
It's pins and needles waiting for your match, not knowing whether or not you'll get your top pick. Students rank programs in order of preference, and residency programs do the same. More than 40,000 hopefuls registered for a match this year, including nearly 16,400 U.S. seniors (the rest are a year or more out of school or come from international medical schools). Seventy five percent were matched to a first-year residency program spot, based on a complex, Nobel-prize-winning algorithm through the National Residency Matching Program, according to numbers released by that organization.

Where Brown Students Are Headed
Brown medicine students found out where they'll spend the next four to six years at noon last Friday.

Eight of the 90 will be staying in Rhode Island to train. 20 will remain in New England. The rest are headed all over the country, including six to San Francisco.

Of the 90, 38 were offered a primary care residency position. That's significant, considering how few residency slots there are for this specialty, and considering how unpopular the field has been - at least, until lately - because of its lower pay and the perception, albeit untrue, that primary care isn't as "sexy" as other specialties.

More Primary Care Docs?
There's talk that, with so many more Americans getting health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, we'll need many more primary care doctors and practitioners to meet the increased demand. But it's too soon to tell what kind of demand we'll actually see. The consensus seems to be that we'll still need more primary care providers to meet the increased demand from a growing and aging population.

But there's still a federal cap on the number of residency slots overall that the government will fund. Hospitals and other institutions have to foot the bill for the rest. And with so many health care institutions struggling financially, it's a wonder the number of residency positions available has increased at all. It has for primary care, but just a smidge: to 6524, up 247 slots from last year.

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