Are Enough Physicians of the Right Types Trained in the United States?

HRD-77-92: Published: May 16, 1978. Publicly Released: May 16, 1978.

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Congress and the medical profession are concerned about whether the number of physicians practicing in various medical specialties is appropriate and whether a proper distribution of physicians by specialty is available in the U.S. Discussion has focused on whether enough physicians will be practicing in primary case specialties and whether too many physicians are or will be practicing in other specialties. Considerable debate has also occurred on whether there is a sufficient aggregate supply of physicians in the U.S.

No system exists to ensure that the number and type of physicians trained is consistent with or related to the appropriate number needed. Decisions on the type and size of graduate medical education programs offered are usually made by individual medical school and hospital program directors without consideration of national needs. Programs offered are influenced by the funds available, the need to provide balanced training within the institution, and patient care needs of training institutions. These programs are not coordinated with identical training programs offered elsewhere. At the present time, no public or private organization has overall responsibility for developing and implementing a system to see that the number and types of physician specialists are consistent with the number needed. The best way to answer the question about the total number of physicians needed is first to determine the number of each type of specialist needed.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: If additional physicians are determined to be needed, Congress should consider whether: (1) additional medical schools should be established or the capacity of existing medical schools should be increased; or (2) if the shortage should be filled by U.S. citizens studying abroad or by medical graduates from other countries. If the number of training positions needed should be fewer than the number of physicians graduating, Congress should explore the extent to which federal financial assistance for increasing the number of medical school graduates is necessary and should be continued. Until the need for additional physicians is more precisely determined, Congress should explore whether it wants the Veterans Administration to continue providing grants either to establish new medical schools or to increase the capacity of existing ones.


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