By Sean Martin

This year, more MD and DO students alike elected to pursue postgraduate training in primary care specialties. In the osteopathic match, family medicine matches increased by 11% and internal medicine matches increased by 9%. So, from a DO perspective, what does it mean that more MDs are going into family medicine? Well, for now, not a whole lot.

For the class of 2013 that just matched and for the upcoming class of 2014, we DOs have our own osteopathic residencies. While the AOA does not have many available training spots in subspecialty residencies, there are an abundance of training locations for primary care. Osteopathic medicine was founded on the idea of taking care of the whole patient and primary care is embedded in our roots. At the same time, many programs in traditionally DO-friendly areas are accredited by both the AOA and ACGME with dedicated spots for osteopathic graduates.

While there are many training locations available, some would argue that they tend to be at smaller, community hospitals. For those graduates that want an academic hospital training experience, the option is to enter the ACGME match.

What hurt DOs this cycle is that signing a contract outside of the match is no longer an option. In the past, qualified DO graduates would sign with allopathic programs before the match to avoid having to make the decision to try to match in either a DO or MD program. With more MD students going into primary care, academic programs may start to become more competitive for DO applicants.

The real question is how this will change in the near future. With the AOA and the ACGME set to come together in 2015, it is very hard to analyze how this upward trend will affect upcoming classes. One big question is, will the two matches merge into one? A merger would certainly help DO students, as currently, if they match into a DO program, they are pulled out of the ACGME match. Many students have to decide which route they will take, meaning they may have to pass on programs that could potentially be a great fit. The other major question is, will MD students be permitted to match into programs that have an osteopathic focus. If they are allowed, this trend towards primary care could make certain programs even more competitive.

With the growing shortage of physicians in the US, the trend towards primary care is a breath of fresh air. The Washington Post recently ran an article that discussed the benefits of osteopathic candidates filling the ever growing physician deficit, so it is nice to see both accrediting bodies increasing in numbers. It is important for the health of the people of this country for more and more students from both osteopathic and allopathic schools to continue to pursue primary care specialties. To quote the father of osteopathic medicine, A.T. Still, “To find health should be the object of the doctor. Anyone can find disease.” With growing interest in primary care, we can strive to prevent disease in our patients rather than simply their symptoms.

Want to see more posts for DOs? Check out our DO Corner.