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Decreasing the Length of Residency Training: A Public Policy Perspective

Whitcomb, Michael E. MD

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000018

It is widely recognized that the United States is going to experience a serious shortage of physicians in the coming years unless the number of physicians completing residency training and entering practice is greatly increased. Members of the academic medicine community have approached this issue by calling on Congress to eliminate the cap that currently limits the number of residency positions that Medicare will support. Simply eliminating the cap, however, will not ensure an adequate supply of physicians. In this commentary the author argues that decreasing the length of training required in core clinical specialties will be required to effectively address the workforce shortage by allowing more residents to be trained in core specialties without greatly increasing the number of training programs and the aggregate amount that Medicare currently spends on graduate medical education.

Author Information

Dr. Whitcomb is Flinn Visiting Scholar, University of Arizona College of Medicine–Phoenix, Phoenix, Arizona.

Funding/Support: None.

Other disclosures: None.

Ethical approval: Not applicable.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Whitcomb, 8393 N. Via Mia St., Scottsdale, AZ 85258; e-mail:

© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges