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President of Association of Medical Colleges calls for more residencies

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Even as U.S. medical schools expand and new ones are added to meet a looming shortage of physicians, the lack of new funding for residency training means hundreds each year will be kept from becoming doctors, according to the head of the group that represents the medical schools.

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Darrell Kirch (right), president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges and a former MCG Dean, talks with Daniel Merrell, Senior Facilities Project Manager, as they tour the still-under-construction J. Harold Harrison, M.D. Medical Commons.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Darrell Kirch (right), president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges and a former MCG Dean, talks with Daniel Merrell, Senior Facilities Project Manager, as they tour the still-under-construction J. Harold Harrison, M.D. Medical Commons.

Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, will be the keynote speaker at the Hooding Ceremony today for Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University. Kirch is a former dean of MCG.

To meet a shortage of doctors, which is projected to reach 91,500 by 2020, the AAMC called on medical schools to expand enrollment by 30 percent. Many, like MCG, did and other universities added 15 new medical schools to push the number to 141 in the U.S., Kirch said. Enrollment will reach that 30 percent increase “within a year or two,” he said.

The problem is the number of residencies – paid for primarily by Medicare – has been capped since 1997, Kirch said. This year, that meant more than 400 U.S. students who will graduate medical school do not have a residency to go to where they can complete their training and become a doctor, Kirch said.

“That’s a tragedy,” he said.

Many will come back and try again next year and some will go on and complete another advanced degree “but they went to medical school to become a doctor,” Kirch said. There are currently three bills in Congress to increase the number of slots, but they are not going anywhere right now, Kirch said.

“The refusal of Congress to bring them to the floor and bring them to a vote is hurting,” he said. “There are lots of signs of the growing doctor shortage. General surgery, especially in rural areas like large parts of Georgia, has deep shortages.”

While saying he did not mean it as a political statement, as a physician Kirch said he would favor Medicaid expansion for states, which Georgia is refusing to do.

“The research shows if you have health insurance, you live longer, you have a better quality of life, and you cost the nation less,” he said. “So I don’t think any states should decline Medicaid. Not on political grounds. I think that as a physician because it will improve the health status of your state’s population.”

One good side effect of medical school expansion is it fosters innovation, like the team-based approach to teaching multiple health disciplines how to work together.

The new J. Harold Harrison MD Education Commons Building, which Kirch toured Wednesday, will include a new interdisciplinary simulator where medical students, nursing students and others can run cases together.

The AAMC got together with other health care academic organizations to establish common core competencies for interprofessional practice and education.

“We knew that people had to work well together, in an operating room, in a cardiac catheterization unit,” Kirch said. “We knew you needed teams but we literally trained people in isolation and plopped them together and said, ‘Be a team.’ ... Medicine is a team sport, it is not an individual sport. The thing that is exciting are the places like MCG that have been able, because they were doing construction, to do campus design to foster that interprofessionalism.”

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Riverman1 05/08/14 - 06:46 am
Key To Increasing Georgia Physicians

As some of us have been saying for awhile, increasing residency slots is the key to keeping physicians in state. How many residents does University Hospital train locally? Other hospitals in Georgia? The problem is existing specialty trained physicians view residents as a threat to their practice when they finish training.

By the way, didn't the Athens medical school just graduate their first class of physicians? Since the school was created supposedly to have more opportunities for clinical training, how did that work out? Did all the graduates obtain resident slots? I haven't seen any stories on their first class to graduate.

agustinian 05/08/14 - 07:07 am
How 'bout We Serve Our Citizens First

Every US medical school graduate should be offered a residency before one foreign graduate is admitted. What the heck are we doing?

Clemsondoc 05/08/14 - 07:23 am
Residency slots

Almost all US graduates match somewhere. It might not be the specialty they want or the geographic location but there are usually enough slots. However US medical schools are adding students faster than residency programs are adding residency slots. Like the comments above though, thousands of foreign medical graduates get into US residencies every year. Instead of dimming down training of residents and adding more programs at smaller hospitals where residents might not see an adequate number of patients and disease states to get adequate training , I would propose having a US graduate only residency match to ensure all US graduates are placed and then fill vacant US residency openings with the best of the best of foreign medical graduates.

corgimom 05/08/14 - 09:04 am
I'd rather have a doctor that

I'd rather have a doctor that made straight A's in a reputable foreign medical college than a doctor that made C's in a US medical college.

What in the heck are we doing? That would be putting the best, the brightest, the most highly qualified doctors into a residency slot, as it should be.

harmony123 05/09/14 - 01:28 am
We are needing more doctors

We are needing more doctors in our country right now because of the many evolving diseases and people became more dependent in drugs. - Kris Krohn

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