Friday, March 21, on National Match Day, California’s graduating medical students learned whether they can begin practicing medicine here – or if they must leave the state to begin their careers.
The National Resident Matching Program matches graduating medical students with residency programs using a mathematical algorithm that pairs the rank-ordered preferences of applicants and program directors to produce a “best fit” for filling available training positions. However, this year, more than 41,000 medical school seniors and graduates applied for only 30,000 available residency positions.
“Match Day is a pivotal point in a medical student’s career,” said California Medical Association (CMA) President, Luther Cobb, M.D. “Many students graduating from California medical schools want to continue their education and training by attending residency programs here. Unfortunately, because of funding restraints, there aren’t enough openings to accept them all.”
Beth Griffiths, fourth-year medical student at UC San Diego School of Medicine, is one of the lucky ones. Griffiths matched her first choice – UC San Francisco – for an internal medicine residency, primarily focused on training primary care physicians. She hopes to practice primary care for adults in Northern California, focusing on caring for Spanish-speaking patients. “Unfortunately,” she says,” there is a tremendous shortage of physicians who are fluent in Spanish.”
Griffiths is thrilled to stay in California to practice medicine. “I like the commitment to serving the underserved that is part of so many of our training programs,” she says. “I also hope to stay active in issues of public policy, which are so relevant to the practice of medicine and improvement of public health.” But although Griffiths will remain in California, many medical students will not.
The federal government, through the Medicare program, has been the major funding source for residency programs. Regrettably, this funding has been frozen since 1997, despite California’s population growing over 10 percent in the same time. In addition, many residency program leaders say that funding received from Medicare and Medicaid does not fully cover the cost of even the current residency training slots, so sponsoring institutions such as teaching hospitals must absorb residual costs.
That’s why CMA is sponsoring SB 22, authored by California State Senator Richard Roth (D-Riverside). The bill would establish a Graduate Medical Education Trust Fund that can receive contributions from private sources in order to provide grants to residency programs in areas with the greatest need.