National Trends Cause Some Caution
On March 21, 23,000 medical school graduates in the National Resident Matching Program found out which residency program they would enter to begin their hands-on clinical training.
According to a press release from the AAMC, this year’s match results pose a decrease in applicants matched to generalist specialties, including anesthesiology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, while diagnostic radiology appears to be on the rise. In addition, there was a slight decrease in the number of U.S. medical school seniors matching to general surgery positions. Although the number of available general surgery positions remained largely unchanged since 2001, the number of U.S. seniors filling those positions dropped from 820 in 2001 to 782 this year.
At BWH, residency program directors are pleased with the match results. In both the Surgery and Medicine programs, the results of this year’s match indicate a strong team of first-year residents to begin at BWH in July 2002.
“It is gratifying to know that top U.S. medical students again recognized the quality training available at BWH, making this year’s match among the best ever. Bruce Levy, MD and I are particularly indebted to the hard work and enthusiasm of our current residents and faculty in recruiting such fine students and future colleagues,” said Joel Katz, MD, Internal Medicine Residency Program director.
“The Department of Surgery did spectacularly well with this year’s match. Our highly competitive program at BWH, like those at other top academic medical centers, will continue to do well and welcome a stellar group of residents each year,” said chairman of the Department of Surgery Michael Zinner, MD. However, in an article he recently published in the March 2002 issue of the Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons, Zinner offers a note of caution for those residency programs that are less competitive in nature on the growing national trend of a diminishing pool of candidates. He writes that while there have been many positive changes to the graduates of medical school over time, these are coupled with many negatives—medical school application numbers are down, indebtedness is soaring, and the relative attractiveness of surgical residencies is in question.
According to Zinner’s article “Surgical Residencies —Are We Still Getting the Best and the Brightest?,” the number of medical school applicants has steadily fallen from a high of 46,968 in 1996-97 to 37,092 in 2000-01. That is a 21 percent drop. In addition, although the mean first year house staff salary is more than $35,000, residents are asked to start repaying their loans immediately upon graduation from medical school. The average debt for those medical school graduates who have debt is $95,000. Only 17 percent of medical school graduates are debt free upon graduation. Furthermore, residencies in general surgery, once highly competitive programs, had 69 and 58 unfilled positions in 2001 and 2002 respectively. In 1996, that number was one.
Look for the BWH new 2002 residents to be highlighted in the July/August issue of BWH Medical Staff News.