Match Day 2013 results are good for future internal-medicine patients

UC Irvine medical student Christine Louie celebrates after learning she got into a UCI/CHOC residency program on Match Day in 2011. Once again, more medical students chose residencies related to internal medicine and primary care in 2013.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

America’s future doctors are increasingly interested in become primary-care physicians -- good news for America’s future patients.

Friday was “Match Day,” the day when fourth-year medical students find out where they’ll be doing their internships and residencies. The process resembles sorority rush week: Students and teaching hospitals first try to impress each other, then they rank each other in order of preference. A computer sorts through all those preferences and spits out the matches, which were made public at 1 p.m. Eastern time.

Among students in the match this year, 3,135 will be headed to a training program that focuses on some aspect of internal medicine, the bread-and-butter of medical care, according to data from the National Resident Matching Program. That’s a 19% increase from 2009, a recent low. It’s also 6.6% higher than last year’s match.


In addition, more med students are headed toward residency programs for internal medicine-primary care and med-peds, which combines internal medicine with pediatrics. Interest in med-peds programs is up 13% from last year, and interest in primary care is up 20% since 2011.

For the people who worry about a shortage of primary-care doctors, these are encouraging statistics. But there’s still a ways to go: This year’s crop of future internal medicine trainees is still 19% smaller than the 3,884 medical students who picked internal medicine in 1985, according to the American College of Physicians.

Since then, specialties like emergency medicine, radiology, ophthalmology, anesthesia and dermatology have grown in popularity due to their higher pay and more manageable work hours. This article from the Yale School of Medicine calls them E-ROAD specialties, or “lifestyle” specialties.

And many of the students who matched in internal medicine Friday will ultimately choose subspecialties like cardiology, pulmonology, oncology and gastroenterology that will take them off the front lines of medicine, noted Dr. Steven Weinberger, chief executive of the American College of Physicians. Perhaps as few as 1 out of 5 of these students will wind up practicing general internal medicine, he noted in a statement.

“We are pleased that more U.S. medical students are choosing internal medicine residencies and hope the upward trend continues,” Weinberger said. “However, ACP remains concerned about the need to increase the nation’s general internal medicine physician workforce to meet the needs of an aging population requiring care for chronic and complex illnesses and the increased number of individuals who will be receiving coverage through the Affordable Care Act.”

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