Research Confirms Key Role of GME Funding Targeted to Primary Care Residency Training

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Leslie Champlin 
Senior Public Relations Strategist 
American Academy of Family Physicians 
(800) 274-2237, Ext. 5224 


WASHINGTON —New research published today supports the common sense assumption that graduate medical education funding to expand primary care residency programs is vital to meeting demand for primary care. 

The evidence was summarized in “Projected Impact of the Primary Care Residency Expansion Program Using Historical Trends in Graduate Placement” a one-pager in the April American Family Physician. In it, researcher Rossan M. Chen, MD, MSc., and her colleagues wanted to project potential results of the Primary Care Residency Expansion Program created in 2010 by the Health Resources and Services Administration. The study was supported by the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care. 

The PCRE Program allocated $168 million over five years to expand enrollment in primary are residency programs beyond the GME caps established for them under the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The program is designed to support training an additional 900 family medicine, general internal medicine and general pediatrics residents by 2015. 

Although residents training in PCRE Program programs had not yet completed their training, Chen and her colleagues wanted to know the potential impact of PCRE Program on increasing the number of primary care physicians. They reviewed historic records to track the previous success of primary care residency programs before they received the PCRE Program grant that increased the number of positions they could offer. 

The results showed 
• More than nine out of 10 (92 percent) family medicine residency graduates remained in primary care rather than subspecialize; 38 percent of them established practices in federally identified Health Professions Shortage Areas or rural areas. 
• More than half (51 percent) of pediatric residency graduates remained in primary care; 42 percent practiced in HPSAs or rural areas. 
• Nearly four in 10 (39 percent) internal medicine graduates remained in primary care, 29 percent established practices in HPSAs or rural areas. 

“The findings highlight the potential impact of targeted investment in primary care residency training, with family medicine residency programs representing the highest return on investment for production of physicians working in primary care, HPSAs, and rural areas,” Chen and her colleagues write. “Future directions in GME funding should focus on programs that have a proven track record of producing physicians working in shortage areas to better align taxpayers’ investment in physician training with society’s pressing health care needs.” 


About the Robert Graham Center

The Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care works to improve individual and population health by enhancing the delivery of primary care. The Center staff generates and analyzes evidence that brings a family medicine and primary care perspective to health policy deliberations at local, state, and national levels.

Founded in 1999, the Robert Graham Center is an independent research unit affiliated with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The information and opinions contained in research from the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the AAFP.