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Why the US faces a shortage of doctors

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Posted at 9:28 AM, Feb 16, 2023

Doctors are in high demand, but various factors, have made the profession less desirable.

“There’s just so many patients to see and so many hours of work to be done and not enough people to do them,” Dr. Julie Pilitsis, dean of Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University.

Josh Sohmer and Adé Marciniak are first-year students at the school. By the time they finish, the Association of American Medical Colleges projects a national doctor shortage of between 60,000 and 110,000. How it got this way is uncomplicated, yet seemingly unavoidable.

“People are living longer, so you can’t have less physicians if there’s more people to take care of,” Sohmer said.

In the next decade, the over-65 population is expected to grow by 45%. That includes the 2 in 5 active physicians who’ll reach retirement age— without as many doctors to replace them.

As that change has begun, more physicians are reporting burnout, particularly during a pandemic that put so many through more trauma than they’d ever seen.

“I think people are starting to realize that it’s not just perfect all the time,” Marciniak said.

Amy Du and Zachary Kravetz are in the latter stages of medical school. Both have spent months training in hospitals.

“I have friends of mine asking me medical questions, and I’m like, ‘I’m not even a physician yet. Ask your doctor.’ And their answer is, ‘I don’t have a doctor,’” Du said, “I know, some of my rotations, I didn’t get home until 10 or 11 at night. And you really think about, ‘Hey, is this really worth it? Is this something I want?’”

You don’t enter medicine by accident. You sign up for an extra four years of school. You brace for sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. And especially now, you don’t choose to do it without a deeper drive.

“My mom found my little journal when I was in first grade that's like, ‘What do you want to be when I grow up?’ And I said, ‘A pediatrician,’” Kravetz said.