Accounting for graduate medical education production of primary care physicians and general surgeons: timing of measurement matters

Acad Med. 2011 May;86(5):605-8. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182134634.


Purpose: Legislation proposed in 2009 to expand GME set institutional primary care and general surgery production eligibility thresholds at 25% at entry into training. The authors measured institutions' production of primary care physicians and general surgeons on completion of first residency versus two to four years after graduation to inform debate and explore residency expansion and physician workforce implications.

Method: Production of primary care physicians and general surgeons was assessed by retrospective analysis of the 2009 American Medical Association Masterfile, which includes physicians' training institution, residency specialty, and year of completion for up to six training experiences. The authors measured production rates for each institution based on physicians completing their first residency during 2005-2007 in family or internal medicine, pediatrics, or general surgery. They then reassessed rates to account for those who completed additional training. They compared these rates with proposed expansion eligibility thresholds and current workforce needs.

Results: Of 116,004 physicians completing their first residency, 54,245 (46.8%) were in primary care and general surgery. Of 683 training institutions, 586 met the 25% threshold for expansion eligibility. At two to four years out, only 29,963 physicians (25.8%) remained in primary care or general surgery, and 135 institutions lost eligibility. A 35% threshold eliminated 314 institutions collectively training 93,774 residents (80.8%).

Conclusions: Residency expansion thresholds that do not account for production at least two to four years after completion of first residency overestimate eligibility. The overall primary care production rate from GME will not sustain the current physician workforce composition.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • American Medical Association
  • Databases, Factual
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • General Surgery* / education
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Needs Assessment
  • Physicians / supply & distribution*
  • Physicians, Primary Care / supply & distribution*
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Workforce