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Courtesy of Priscilla M. Mpasi, M.D., FAAP

Newly matched pediatrics residents from Meharry Medical College celebrate Match Day during a campus event March 15.

Match Day: Medical students begin residency program journeys; AAP raises concerns over slip in pediatrics fill rate

May 1, 2024
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While thousands of graduating medical students celebrated their matches into pediatric residency programs on March 15, the AAP is concerned about the number of pediatricians entering the pipeline.

Pediatrics filled 92% of categorical and primary positions offered in the Main Residency Match. The number of primary care positions offered increased 3% over last year, while the number of medical students matched dropped 2.5%, leaving more than 250 positions unfilled. From 2017-’23, fill rates were 97%-98%.

For all pediatric positions including pediatric subspecialties, the fill rate also was 92%.

“The large number of unmatched positions is concerning for our general pediatrician and pediatric subspecialty pathways,” said Harold K. Simon, M.D., M.B.A., FAAP, chair of the AAP Committee on Pediatric Workforce. “It raises increased challenges for meeting the pediatric workforce needs in the foreseeable future.”

More than 44,000 applicants were matched to nearly 6,400 residency programs on Match Day.

Results for pediatric programs showed:

  • 93 more categorical and primary positions were offered this year than in 2023 (3,139 vs. 3,046), and 252 of those positions were unfilled, up from 88 last year;
  • 1,464 M.D. and 591 D.O. seniors matched into categorical pediatrics — down from 1,635 and 608, respectively, last year;
  • 100% of the 390 internal medicine-pediatrics positions were filled compared to 99% the previous year; and
  • 47.6% of U.S. M.D. seniors matched to categorical pediatrics positions in 2024, a decrease of 7.2 percentage points from last year.

Dr. Simon said the trend of unfilled positions should be addressed as early as possible.

“Making medical students aware of the tremendous benefits and joy of treating the most deserving among us should be reinforced through early mentorship and highlighting pediatrics as a wonderful career choice,” Dr. Simon said.

Pathways to pediatrics

Yewande Dada, a medical student at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., was excited to learn she matched to her No. 1 choice — UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

“Most schools have a Match Day ceremony, but I chose to stay home and be with my family,” Dada said. “We decorated the house, and I got to spend that moment with my family and opened my email at 11 a.m. while watching my school ceremony at the same time so I could feel like I was doing it with all my classmates.”

The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Dada said she aspired to become a pediatrician to help children like her younger brother, Babafemi, who has Down syndrome.

“I wanted to find opportunities that would help me achieve my goal of supporting the success of children with disabilities,” Dada said. “Growing up, I tried my best to support the development of my brother’s gifts and talents, while finding ways to support him in overcoming the distinct challenges children with disabilities face. His experiences also showed me some of the unique challenges faced by children with disabilities from historically marginalized groups. I’m really passionate about developing resources, systems and programs that really help kids fulfill their full potential.”

Dada also hopes to help children overcome adverse childhood experiences, believing circumstances beyond kids’ control should not dictate the trajectory of their lives.

She was a trainee in the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine (STEMM) Prep Project through the Distance Learning Center from middle school through her senior year of college. The program provides experiences for students from historically marginalized groups to learn about becoming a physician scientist. As a high school STEMM Prep summer trainee, she learned about developmental-behavioral pediatrics at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital, which is affiliated with UT Southwestern.

“My interest (in pediatrics) really started because of my high school internship, so I was already interested in UT Southwestern,” Dada said. “It’s a full-circle moment for me. Being able to train at the same place where my interest in pediatrics started is something that’s really sentimental to me.”

Leen Khalife, who matched to The State University of New York (SUNY) Medical University in Syracuse, N.Y., said the Match process was filled with “eagerness and anticipation.”

“Learning that I would have the opportunity to fulfill my dream at SUNY was incredibly fulfilling,” Khalife said. “I feel deeply grateful for the chance to contribute to the community in a meaningful way within a supportive environment that nurtures growth and development.”

Born in Lebanon and raised in the United Arab Emirates, Khalife returned to Lebanon to study at the Lebanese American University Gilbert and Rose-Marie Chagoury School of Medicine, where she discovered a passion for pediatrics. After graduating, she joined the Roya Kabuki Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, where she studies Kabuki syndrome, a rare genetic neurodevelopment condition.

Khalife recalls an experience during her first year of clinical training in her pediatrics rotation that shaped her passion for pediatric care. After a premature infant was wheeled into the neonatal intensive care unit, she and a resident helped to stabilize the newborn under the guidance of a neonatologist.

“This experience compelled me to apply everything I had learned, to think swiftly on my feet and to act decisively and confidently,” Khalife said. “Pediatricians serve as the initial point of contact for children within the health care system. I found myself drawn to pediatrics because of the opportunity it affords me to actively contribute to the well-being of future generations through health care visits, screenings, advocacy and amplifying their voices.”

University of North Carolina School of Medicine student Victoria Person was surrounded by her sisters and best friend when she learned she matched to Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., her top choice.

“I knew I wanted to be a pediatrician since I was a kid,” Person said. “I loved knowing that I could one day have the gift to heal people and be with them in their most intimate times of need. I also realized throughout medical school that pediatrics provides a tremendous opportunity to get involved in advocacy work and truly influence the lives of children and their families for decades beyond your individual care.”

Record number of applicants

The 2024 Match set a record with 50,413 applicants, an increase of 4.7% over last year. In total, 44,853 of those applicants certified a rank order list as active applicants, up from 42,952 active applicants last year. The increase was driven largely by a rise in the number of non-U.S. citizen international medical graduates and osteopathic seniors.

Family medicine fill rates held steady at about 88% compared to the previous year.

Emergency medicine saw its fill rate increase to nearly 96%, up from 82% last year. The specialty achieved historically high fill rates of 98%-99% in 2017-’21.  By 2023, however, the fill rate had dropped 17.9 percentage points, driven in part by the strain experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specialties with at least 30 positions with the highest percentage of U.S. M.D. and D.O. seniors were internal medicine-emergency medicine (96.8%), thoracic surgery (95.8%), otolaryngology (95.8%), internal medicine-pediatrics (94.6%), orthopedic surgery (92.1%), interventional radiology-integrated (91.4%) and obstetrics and gynecology (90.7%).

There were 2,562 unfilled positions in 787 programs, 123 fewer unfilled positions than in last year’s Match.

A total of 2,575 positions were placed in the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP). Eligible participants who did not match to a residency position can participate in SOAP, with results expected this spring.

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