– DC Rally Brings Attention to Plight of Doctors without Jobs –
A crisis has been building in America with our doctors. They have been sidelined – too many of them can’t work. A very real shift has occurred from the 1950s, 60s and 70s when all U.S. medical school graduates had the opportunity to practice, thus cementing the belief among the general population that if you went to medical school you unquestionably became a practicing physician.
That is not the reality today. In the 80s, a divergence started between the number of doctors seeking U.S. residencies and the number of residencies available. The organizations and institutions that have trained our doctors, and that purport to represent them, have failed both them and the people of this country who need the quality health care these doctors could be delivering across the country.
Because of systemic failure among these organizations and institutions – and perhaps complacency in continuing business as usual – 6,570 doctors did not match to a residency last year. That was just last year. Without residencies at teaching hospitals – the next step after doctors have completed their undergraduate degrees and graduated from medical schools, doctors are shut out of their profession. They can’t work, and most are saddled with a tremendous student loan debt load.
Based just on the 2020 unmatched numbers, using an average medical student loan debt of $200,000, that’s $1.3 billion that ultimately will be borne by the U.S. taxpayers if doctors can’t service their debt. As well, U.S. taxpayers are funding residencies at a cost of $150,000 a year ($750,000 for a three-year residency), and in the last 10 years, more than 40,000 of those U.S. residencies have gone to non-U.S. doctors.
Doctors have had enough and are starting to speak out. A committed group of doctors traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to discuss and strategize how best to fix a system that sidelines thousands of trained and qualified doctors each year by denying them residencies at U.S. teaching hospitals. The week also included back-to-back meetings with Democratic and Republican Congressional and Senate staffers to discuss reintroducing the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act in the 117th Congress.
In sharing their personal stories with staffers, a common theme emerged from the doctors. They want to treat and care for Americans, and certainly in a time of a pandemic. But they are being prevented from working as doctors because of the lack of residency training opportunities. The good news is that there appeared to be not only interest, but enthusiasm, for reintroducing such a bill.
At the end of the week, on a cold winter day, doctors staged a rally in front of the offices of the Association of American Medical Colleges in downtown Washington, D.C., to bring attention to the issue of unmatched doctors and make their voices heard.
There is much the AAMC can do to address the issue of doctors without jobs. That includes working more closely with colleges to ensure graduates are placed in residencies.
The doctors’ summit renewed the commitment of each of the attendees to continue to organize and advocate on behalf of America’s unmatched doctors.
There’s much more to be done, but this was the opening salvo in a situation that must be remedied for our doctors, and for Americans who deserve the quality health care that these providers can deliver.