Every year around Match Day, medical and pre-med students alike worry about a rumored “residency cliff.” The theory is that the number of medical school graduates will soon outstrip the existing inventory of residency positions and the overflow applicants will be left in professional limbo.

While that picture seems scary, it’s time for some good news. I’ve believed for years that this concern is more phantom than real, but now there is empirical evidence in the form of a data analysis by a respected source in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan, a longtime observer of physician workforce trends, published a report in the NEJM examining recent and projected growth of U.S. medical school enrollment, compared to the rate of increase in residency program positions. Mullan concludes that while the number of graduates has begun catching up with the number of available positions, this gap is narrowing very slowly. In 2024, the number of available residency slots will still exceed the number of U.S. medical school graduates by around 4,500. That means an ample supply of postgraduate training positions for new MDs from not only U.S. schools, but deserving international medical graduates as well.

 

Heidi Chumley, MD is Executive Dean and Chief Academic Officer of the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC). Dr. Chumley joined AUC in 2013 following an eight-year tenure at the University of Kansas School of Medicine and has been recognized with national awards for teaching, leadership, and scholarship.