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Influx of applicants to OHSU Residency Program shows need to increase Oregon’s Graduate Medical Education slots

OHSU received 4,900 applications for just 69 primary care training slots

Oregon Health & Science University’s Graduate Medical Education (GME) program continues to be highly desirable to medical students from across the country and beyond, according to data from the National Residency Matching Program. Despite a similar number of open slots compared with 2010, the number of applicants rose by more than 4 percent, making OHSU training increasingly competitive. More than 11,300 graduates applied for one of 152 open slots.

Graduate Medical Education, also known as a “residency,” is the next phase of training for a student who has completed medical school. All new graduates pursue a residency in primary care or another specialty.

At the OHSU School of Medicine, the primary care specialties — general internal medicine, family medicine and pediatrics — attracted the most attention, with more than 4,300 applications for 69 slots. General internal medicine’s 33 available GME slots were sought by 1,580 applicants, an increase of 137 applicants over last year. Pediatrics saw a similar jump in interest, with 798 applications to interview 164 candidates for 16 slots. While formally categorized as primary care by the Association of American Medical Colleges and other national groups, many general internal medicine and pediatrics residents will go on to sub-specialize.

More than a thousand applicants vied for 12 slots in family medicine (an increase of 18 percent over 2010’s applications) and the OHSU Cascades East Rural Family Medicine Residency program in Klamath Falls, Ore., received 937 applicants for eight slots. A combined family medicine/preventive medicine program, based in Portland, attracted 28 applicants for two slots. Family Medicine residents will almost certainly all remain in primary care.

OHSU’s application numbers to primary care mirrored a recent national increase in senior medical students matching to primary care residencies; OHSU’s primary care GME programs consistently rank very high nationwide in U.S. News & World Report comparisons, and competition for OHSU residencies has stiffened with each year’s match.

“OHSU’s ability to attract the best and brightest residents into our programs has a real impact on the health care available to Oregonians,” said Mark Richardson, M.D., M.B.A., dean, OHSU School of Medicine. “We do a good job of retaining these new physicians in Oregon, and increasing GME slots in Oregon would be an immediate and effective tool to use in our ongoing efforts to address physician work force shortages.”

Statistics show that where a physician completes their residency strongly correlates with where they eventually will practice. There are ongoing collaborative initiatives in Oregon to establish new residency programs. These programs are partly supported by federal funding.

Jinnell Lewis, a fourth-year medical student at OHSU, was one of the eight selected to begin their GME program at the Cascades East Rural Family Medicine Residency Program. “I’ve always wanted to practice in a rural area and have worked in Bend, Woodburn and Burns during my student training in Portland,” she said. “Now I can train as I intend to practice, in an area where resources are more limited and the relative lack of access to specialists offers a much broader scope of care for the family practitioner. I am excited by the relationships I will develop with my patients, but also slightly nervous about the first day I will step into the clinic as a physician.”

“This has been a fabulous process again this year, beneficial to both the candidates and the programs,” said Donald E. Girard, M.D., J.S., Reinschmidt Professor of Medical Education and associate dean for Graduate Medical Education and Continuing Medical Education. “We continue to see OHSU recruiting the most accomplished doctors into the available residency positions.”

Applications for some non-primary care residencies at OHSU also saw significant increases over last year. Ten slots in emergency medicine attracted 1,004 applicants — an increase of 18 percent over last year, and 409 applicants vied for four slots in neurology, up from 326 applications in 2010.

General surgery drew 890 applicants for 19 slots, psychiatry 652 for eight slots, anesthesiology 833 for 12 slots, diagnostic radiology 548 for six slots, orthopaedic surgery 590 for 5 slots, Ob/Gyn 520 for seven slots, pathology 416 for two slots, dermatology 402 for four slots, otolaryngology 290 for three slots and neurological surgery 227 for two slots.

In total, OHSU’s residency programs will greet 230 incoming residents, interns and fellows in June and July, including 19 students from OHSU’s own graduating class of medical students. Altogether 592 residents and intern slots are currently occupied at OHSU, with an additional 202 physicians pursuing postgraduate medical fellowships for further specialist training in their chosen disciplines.

Nationwide, the total number of first- and second-year positions exceeded 26,000 for the first time. Slightly more than 94 percent of U.S. medical school seniors matched to a first-year residency position this year; 81 percent of those students matched to one of their top three choices, according to the NRMP. Dermatology, orthopaedic surgery, otolaryngology, plastic surgery, radiation oncology, thoracic surgery, and vascular surgery were the most competitive fields for applicants. At least 90 percent of those positions were filled by U.S. medical school seniors.

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