Unethical Stoking of Medical Student Fears About Not matching Into a Residency Training Program

Submitted on Tue, 06/01/2021 - 11:22

Every year, more than 45,000 medical students graduate and start additional residency training that will determine their practice specialties. A formal Match helps students and programs choose each other and that process starts with an application process managed by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). A recent study of that process, The Price of Fear: An Ethical Dilemma Underscored in a Virtual Residency Interview Season, published this month in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education, finds that student applications nearly doubled over the last decade without any associated change in rates of successful matching.

Medical students trained in the US spent more than $1400 in application fees and those trained in other countries spent more than $3000 and the rise in applications and fees raised Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) related revenue from $11 million to $94 million per year. This rise in applications, fees, and AAMC revenue is associated with fear and uncertainty in successfully matching—a fear stoked by a constant message that there will soon be a shortage of residency training positions.

“Our students deserve guidance on the facts not the fear," said Joel Willis DO, PA, MA, MPhil  Assistant Professor in the Division of Family Medicine and Interim Medical Director of George Washington Immediate Primary Care at George Washington University.
That message of fear is part of the AAMC advocacy agenda and, as the study shows, is often repeated by medical school deans. The study cites others showing that training positions also continue to grow and finds that there is no evidence of a shortage based on match rates. The authors point to ethical concerns related to the fact that the AAMC is both the source of the fear-generating message and the beneficiary of the growth in application fees.

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