Healthcare Business News

Osteopathic grads lean toward primary care

By Rachel Landen
Posted: February 13, 2013 - 1:00 pm ET

Family medicine and other primary-care specialties topped the list of specialties chosen by this year's crop of graduating osteopathic medical students, according to the American Osteopathic Association's 2013 “match day” results.

About one-quarter of the 1,900 graduating osteopaths matched will enter family medicine, according to the National Matching Services. About 75% of the 2,512 students and recent graduates who participated found out on Feb. 11 the location of their upcoming residency or internship.

Like traditional medical doctors, osteopaths are fully licensed physicians who complete four years of medical education, followed by a three- to eight-year internship or residency program. However, osteopathic physicians also receive additional training in the musculoskeletal system in order to understand how illness or injury in one part of the body affects another. More than 20% of medical students are osteopaths.

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Budding physicians trained as osteopaths are increasingly choosing to enter primary-care specialties. There were 472 graduates choosing the most-matched specialty this year, up 9% from 433 a year ago. Internal medicine also saw a 9% increase in osteopathic physicians, filling 402 positions for 2013.

And the numbers could still rise as those students who didn’t match participate in “the scramble”—a post-match tool available through July to help others find residency and internship placement.

“Every year, we see more and more osteopathic medical students matching into family medicine programs and other primary-care specialties,” Dr. Clinton Adams, vice chair of the AOA Council on Postdoctoral Training, said in a news release.

According to the AOA’s 2012 Osteopathic Medical Profession Report, more than 60% of DOs work in primary care. Yet the nation is still facing what AOA President Dr. Ray Stowers calls a “looming shortage” of primary-care physicians—those in general practice, family medicine, pediatrics, internal medicine and obstetrics/gynecology.

The Association of American Medical Colleges will announce its residency matches next month. Last year, for the 95% of U.S. medical school seniors, or nearly 23,000, who matched, only about 11% of positions available were in family medicine.

The AAMC has expressed concern that the number of residency positions was too few to avoid an impending shortage of doctors. “Because it can take up to 14 years from the time new doctors begin their education until they enter practice, we must begin to act now to avert this shortage,” AAMC President and CEO Dr. Darrell Kirch said in a news release.

The AAMC’s 2013 match results will be posted for applicants at 1 p.m. EST on March 15.

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