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Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research

United States Physician Workforce Issues

Recent research suggests that the future supply of physicians in the United States will not be adequate to the country’s health care needs. Though U.S. medical schools have expanded enrollment in an effort to address this shortage, it will take several years for any increases to yield a sufficient number of qualified practitioners. As a result, internationally educated physicians, who currently make up approximately 25% of the practicing physician workforce, will continue to play a role in U.S. health care services for some time, and a great deal of attention continues to be devoted to studying their qualifications and practice patterns.

Since all international medical graduates (IMGs) must be certified by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG®) to be eligible to enter accredited U.S. graduate medical education (GME) programs, both their demographic and examination performance data are available to FAIMER dating back 50 years. These data have been analyzed to determine changes in the characteristics of IMGs who have pursued training opportunities in the United States. Because many of these physicians stay in the United States following their graduate training, knowing more about their characteristics, including their intended specializations and likely practice locations, will aid future physician workforce planning.

To explore U.S. physician workforce issues in greater detail, FAIMER has partnered with various organizations, including the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP), the National Board of Medical Examiners® (NBME®), the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), and the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). FAIMER continues to collaborate and pool expertise and data sources to fulfill its research goals related to the U.S. physician workforce.

Selected FAIMER staff publications on this topic are listed below. FAIMER staff members are listed in bold. Click on an article’s title to view its abstract listing in the PubMed database.

Boulet JR, Pinsky WW. Reporting a pass/fail outcome for USMLE Step 1: consequences and challenges for international medical graduates. Academic Medicine. 2020;95:1322-1324.

Duvivier RJ, Wiley E, Boulet JR. Supply, distribution and characteristics of international medical graduates in family medicine in the United States: a cross-sectional study. BMC Family Practice. 2019;20(1):47.

Norcini JJ, Boulet JR, Opalek A, Dauphinee WD. Patients of doctors further from medical school graduation have poorer outcomes. Medical Education. 2017;51(5):480-489.

[Last update: October 19, 2021]

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