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Match 2024: ‘The difference that you can make as a primary care physician’


AAFP president discusses state of primary care and its future with record number of family medicine slots this year.

© Andrey Popov - stock.adobe.com

physicians doctors form happy huddle: © Andrey Popov - stock.adobe.com

The 2024 announcement of the National Resident Matching Program included a 92.9% fill rate for a record number of primary care positions.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) said that is good news because there were 4,595 medical students and graduates matching into family medicine residency programs, and the 5,231 slots in 2024 were up 124 from last year.

AAFP President Steven P. Furr, MD, FAAFP, spoke to Medical Economics about the NRMP 2024 Match, and the current status and the future of primary care physicians. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Medical Economics: When we're talking about the match, we're talking about medical students who are used to working hard. What other characteristics do new independent family doctors need to thrive?

© American Academy of Family Physicians

Steven P. Furr, MD, FAAFP
© American Academy of Family Physicians

Steven P. Furr, MD, FAAFP: I think all of them go into family medicine because they're interested in their patients and the patients realize that and know that, so that caring spirit that they have goes a long way to generating a practice and all. But they do also have to be business wise. They need to know how to run a practice, they need to be wise in their coding and how to code things. You can see patients and spend a lot of time, but if you don't code very properly, then you're not generating much income, which puts a stress on your reimbursement, also stress in the clinic. So, you've also got to be a good businessperson along with that.

Medical Economics: What would you like to see medical schools do to encourage more medical students to enter family practice internal medicine, pediatrics or OB/GYN?

Steven P. Furr, MD, FAAFP: I think most of the medical schools are starting to do this, but have more involvement with clinical medicine up front, you know, the first two years are mainly basic science, but most of them are starting to integrate more clinical medicine upfront and I think if we start doing more continuity of care where maybe medical students start following patients in their first or second year and have that relationship with them over years, they will see the difference that you can make as a primary care physician. I think that continuity of care with patients and seeing them as a patient and not just a disease and not just an organ system, really make them want to go into family medicine, or internal medicine or peds.

Medical Economics: From a legislative perspective. What would you like to see happen in Washington to improve primary care across the United States?

Steven P. Furr, MD, FAAFP: I think that Washington is actually hearing what we say and they're not hearing just from us, they're also hearing from our patients. That the prior authorization, administrative hassles are not affecting just us, but they're also affecting our patients because they sometimes get delays in getting their medication or can't get the medicines that they need. So that is affecting them. But they also hear that we also do need to fund more primary care and particularly more family physicians. So, the teaching health centers, which are residencies actually in smaller communities or in underserved areas, that by Congress has often been funded on a year-to-year basis. And you can imagine how hard it is to run a business not knowing one year to the next if you're going to have the funds to keep that business going. So it makes it hard to recruit faculty, it makes it hard to recruit residents not knowing if they're going to be funded the next year. There are several legislations out there to hope to fund that at a multiple year level. We would like at least seven years, but we would go with five, but whatever we could get is better than the year-to-year. We've trained over 2,000 family physicians and dentists with those programs so far, so we think there's a very key program as far as getting people into the rural and underserved areas. It's important for Congress to cut to continue to fund that but do it on a longitudinal basis where there can be some stability in those programs.

Medical Economics: What did I not ask about the match that you want our readers to know?

Steven P. Furr, MD, FAAFP: The Match, I think is very interesting. I think the thing to think about the Match is, not so much the Match itself, but the reason we need more family physicians is, the average family physician is over 51 years old. So that means we got a large number of family physicians that are going to be retiring in the next 10 to 15 years. That's why we need more and more family physicians in there. I think the other thing to realize is that even though you talk about primary care, everybody who goes into primary care doesn't always go into a practice, they might become a hospitalist, they might do ER, so that's why we need to have as many people go into family medicine as we can, because some will not choose to do an office-based practice.

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