Graduates had until Feb. 20 to submit their residency preferences, and they learned their fates March 15 on “Match Day.” Residency programs traditionally start July 1.
Representatives from major teaching hospitals in the state, however, reported that the crisis appeared to have little impact on the number of graduates seeking resident positions in Illinois, but added that the true impact on individual choices may never be known.
Barry Kamin, executive director for graduate medical education and the designated institutional official, or DIO, for GME at the University of Chicago Medical Center, reported that no resident slots at his institution went unfilled.
With more than 1,400 students at campuses in Chicago, Rockford, Peoria and Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois is the largest medical school in the nation. Of the 166 graduates at the Chicago campus, it was reported that 39% will undergo their residency training in Illinois. The top five placements for these graduates were University of Illinois Hospital, University of Chicago Medical Center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Rush University Medical Center, all in Chicago, as well as Loyola University Hospital in Maywood, Ill.
In an e-mail, Dr. Mark Potter, director of the UIC family medicine department residency program, said his program was filled with four UIC graduates and five from other Illinois medical schools as well as grads from Massachusetts, New York and Washington. “We have not yet seen what will happen this year for licensing for these new residents, which could also be a very important problem that is still to emerge,” Potter said.
Dr. Susan Vanderberg-Dent, associate dean of the Rush University Medical Center GME program, reported similar results. “Across Illinois, I don't think there was a big drop in fill rates,” she said. “What we don't know is: Are the same people who filled the programs the same people who would have applied anyway?”
Vanderberg-Dent added that she wasn't sure if the funding crisis registered on medical students' radar as graduates' choices for residency programs usually focus on specialty and geographic preferences plus proximity to family or a support group. There are 650 residents and fellows training at Rush, including 160 first-year residents and 40 new fellows, she said, adding that DIOs at state hospitals let legislators know what was at stake.
“Clearly, the message was that this was a potentially significant problem for training programs,” she said, adding that residents cannot begin employment or training without a license. “It's a tough situation for the incoming house staff: potentially no income and no health insurance benefits.”
Sue Hofer, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, said the state is in the process of asking the reassigned employees if they want to come back and work at the department's medical unit. If there are spots unfilled, the department has authority to rehire former employees under 75-day contracts to help process residents' applications for the temporary license they need to train and practice.
“We are focusing on licensing first, because of the urgency of getting temporary licenses approved by July 1 so people can start their residencies on time,” Hofer said, adding that it will be business as usual. “It's always a crunch and it always requires over time and temporary help—but now we have the funding to pay for overtime and temporary help.”
The next priority will be to restore the disciplinary investigation and enforcement staff. Hofer said of the eight employees that had remained on staff, two were enforcement attorneys and one was an investigator who responded to cases in order of their urgency.
Hofer said the impact of the funding crisis on individual residency choices will remain unknown, but she added that “We have some of the best teaching hospitals in the world, so there are a lot of incentives to come to Illinois.”