Eight Specialty Shortages in a Land of Plenty

First in a series of five articles on the 2011 MMS Physician Workforce Study.

In a state with 4 medical schools, 2,700 medical students,  398 residency programs and almost 5,500 residents, it might seem logical to conclude that there is no shortage of doctors in Massachusetts.

But for the tenth straight year, our physician workforce study has uncovered critical shortages in this land of plenty. On the basis of responses to a series of six questions, eight specialties are in short supply in Massachusetts this year:

  • Dermatology
  • Family medicine
  • General surgery
  • Internal medicine
  • Neurosurgery
  • Orthopedics
  • Psychiatry
  • Urology

But not all regions in the state are equal. In the immediate Boston area, there’s a relatively adequate supply of physicians. But the southeastern, central and western parts of the state are having much more difficulty recruiting new physicians. Even many urban labor markets are feeling the squeeze:

  • Cambridge/Somerville/Arlington/Medford
  • Salem/Beverly/Lynn/Saugus
  • Newton/Wellesley/Needham
  • Quincy/Braintree/Plymouth

While there is some agreement about the causes of these shortages, there’s a lively debate about how to resolve them. The workforce study says that natural labor market dynamics seems to work well enough in Boston, but “labor markets often do not function as efficiently as one would like.”

The prospects for the future are not entirely comforting. A large cohort of late-career physicians is nearing retirement, and there aren’t enough younger physicians in [place to succeed them. Moreover, the thousands of young people who train in Massachusetts remain hesitant to establish roots here. More about that in tomorrow’s post.

Read the workforce study at www.massmed.org/workforce

Coming tomorrow: Why Do Residents Stay in Massachusetts?

Comments are closed.