Workforce planners continue to be concerned that unlimited growth in graduate medical education (GME)—principally fueled by unrestrained federal support—will lead to a physician surplus. Because of this concern, in 1996 six major professional organizations called for a reduction in Medicare support of GME to bring residency training programs into more rational alignment with population needs. As of July 1, 1997, no final action had been taken by Congress to limit GME funding, although extensive discussions are under way. Even without governmental restrictions, the American Medical Association's annual survey of GME programs showed a reduction in the numbers of first-year residents in most major specialties and subspecialties. Minor reductions were initially noticed last year; now, the decreases are significant. Nearly all the specialties that had difficulty placing their graduates for 2 consecutive years also reported at least 10% fewer first-year residents than in 1994. More importantly, disciplines without employment difficulties also reported downsizing. The overall effect of these first-year reductions is easily masked by the addition of programs in new disciplines and some residents staying in the GME system longer. Entry-level reductions appear to be broader and more extensive than can be explained by market forces alone.
Dunn MR, Miller RS. US Graduate Medical Education, 1996-1997. JAMA. 1997;278(9):750-754. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550090074036