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United States Faces Major Doctor Shortage

November 22, 2017
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The U.S. is facing a significant doctor shortage, according to the Association for American Medical Colleges (AAMC). In the AAMC’s Key Findings release, primary care physician demand is predicted to grow 17 percent in the next decade. However, current demand outnumbers the supply. By 2025, the U.S. will need around 46,000 to 90,000 doctors. “These updated projections confirm that the physician shortage is real, it’s significant, and the nation must begin to train more doctors now if patients are going to be able to receive the care they need,” said AAMC President Darrell Kirch. The need for physicians is rising due to an aging American population and a greater accessibility to healthcare. According to AAMC Chief Health Care Officer Janis Orlowski, M.D., U.S. citizens over the age of 65 will increase from 40 to 45 percent in the next decade. Additionally, more Americans can pay for medical treatment, due to the Affordable Care Act. “The baby boom generation is transitioning into retirement. That entire population is going to be dependent on Medicare and will need primary care doctors,” said Shirsha Guha, head of Saint James School of Medicine. While the U.S. population ages into retirement, so will America’s physicians. Approximately 33% of U.S. doctors are over the age of 55. “More physicians retiring over the next decade also will create challenges for patients who need access to healthcare,” Kirch added. Doctor demand is most prevalent in states that don’t house major cities. By percentage of primary-care needs being met, Connecticut ranks the lowest at 15 percent, along with Missouri at 30 percent, Rhode Island at 33 percent, Alaska at 35 percent and North Dakota at 37 percent. Additionally, a majority of medical schools in the United States are situated in the northeast. When medical students graduate, they tend to stay in the area, creating a geographic skew. Another factor to consider is the location of residencies. Residencies are not situated in areas of great need, which causes varied concentrations of physicians nationwide. “I have seen firsthand what it means for patients not to be able to receive the care they need,” Kirch said, “Those projected shortages are very troubling and only reinforce the importance that all patients have access to health care for their physical and mental well-being.” AAMC research predicts a shortage as high as 35,600 for primary care physicians and 60,300 for specialized, non-primary care careers. General and vascular surgeons in particular require double or triple its current amount, due to their specialty in caring for age-related conditions like heart and arterial diseases. To lessen the shortage, the AAMC recommends an increase in residency positions, and for larger class sizes in medical schools. The AAMC also hopes Congress will approve an increase in federal support toward doctor training. Guha suggests finding a medical school that offers eligibility to practice as a physician in the United States, like Saint James School of Medicine. “There is never going to be a surplus of doctors,” Guha added, “At this rate, U.S. medical schools are not meeting our current shortage.” Interested in becoming part of the solution? Contact our admissions team to learn more about Saint James School of Medicine.
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