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July 26, 2021

Debt increases for family medicine residents

The number of family medicine residents with more than $250,000 in self-reported educational debt increased by 81% over a five-year period, according to a study led by an MSU researcher.


The study, published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, used data from the 2014-2019 American Board of Family Medicine Family Medicine Certification Examination registration questionnaire. Researchers found an increase of 25.7% to 46.5% in the number of family medicine residents with self-reported debt of at least $250,000. In 2019, the average debt of indebted allopathic U.S. medical school graduates and osteopathic students was $200,000 and $256,562 respectively.


Julie Phillips, professor of family medicine in the College of Human Medicine.

“This study is unique, because it looks at all family medicine residents — including those who are graduates of international medical schools,” said lead author, Julie Phillips, professor of family medicine, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. “It gives us a cross-section of how our residents are doing financially. Although we knew debt was high, we were surprised to see that almost half of residents had debt over $250,000.”


These increases in residents’ debt levels are concerning, as noted by authors of the study. High debt among medical students has been associated with distress, academic failure and a higher likelihood for selecting higher-income specialty careers.


Residents with more debt do not perform as well academically, experience more distress and make different long-term career decisions — they are less likely to choose academics, geriatrics and careers in settings that care for underserved populations.


Previous research also found residents with high debt are less likely to choose first jobs in government-owned or subsidized practices, such as Federally Qualified Health Centers, rural health clinics or the Indian Health Service.


(Note for media: Please include a link to the original paper in online coverage

By: Geri Kelley

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