MATCH DAY: New survey says “personality fit” largest factor in specialty choice

Fifty-five students of the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Class of 2013 are anxiously awaiting “Match Day”, a nationwide event in which 4th year medical students learn where a computer has “matched” them to continue their training as newly-minted MDs. That’s where they will begin to work (earning a salary, hooray!) under supervision while receiving the three or more years of the on-the-job training they need to earn their board certification and licensure. Through JABSOM, Hawai`i has slots for about 240 MDs in 14 different post-MD residency or fellowship training programs conducted in partnership with the Hawai`i Residency Programs and our community academic training hospitals and health centers.

64% of JABSOM 2012 MD graduates chose Primary Care

In 2012’s Match Day, almost 1/3 of our MD graduates remained in Hawai`i for further post-MD training. A whopping 64% of our graduates chose to enter Primary Care, the State’s most urgent need.  (Primary Care includes Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Pediatrics and OB-GYN. JABSOM’s Hawai`i Health Workforce Assessment in 2012 found that based on Hawai`i’s population, the State is already short 600 physicians–half of the shortage involves doctors in primary care. )

Edward Lam and his `ohana on Match Day 2012

Edward Lam and his `ohana on Match Day 2012


The JABSOM MD debt burden

JABSOM MD students, on average, finish medical school with educational loan debts of $104,586. Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) data in 2012 showed just 48 of JABSOM’s first-year MD students have a combined current debt of $2.2 million.


2012 Match Day in a family way: Dr. Melanie Payanal with her husband and two sons

The conventional wisdom has been that overall nationally, medical students are driven by their heavy debt burdens to choose high-paying specialty professions. But a new report from the AAMC says that isn’t necessarily so.

The new report from AAMC

Washington, D.C., February 26, 2013Medical student debt continues to rise at an alarming rate, but is not the determining factor in the area of medicine a student chooses to pursue, according to a new report, Physician Education Debt and the Cost to Attend Medical School, published by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges).

According to the report, the median level of student debt in 2012 increased 5 percent over the previous year to $170,000. Both medical student debt levels and the cost of attending medical school have increased faster than inflation over the last 20 years, following similar trends seen across higher education.

With the nation facing a shortage of more than 90,000 doctors by 2020, concerns have arisen about how increasing debt levels could affect the supply of new physicians, especially those entering primary care fields.  According to the findings, graduating medical students rank “personality fit” as the most important consideration when choosing a specialty. The level of patient care involved in a given field, the work/life balance offered, and a student’s future family plans are also important factors in the decision-making process.  Education debt ranked last out of 11 factors.

Among the 86 percent of graduating medical students reporting debt in 2012, the study found similar burdens of student indebtedness when gender, race or ethnicity, and family income were examined. The percentage of female and male graduates reporting debt was approximately the same, with 87 percent of female and 85 percent of male graduates reporting debt. The median debt level of graduates varied only slightly, between $160,000 and $175,000, according to family income.

The report also contains information about loan repayment and borrowing options. Overall, the repayment scenarios in the report show that it is still possible for new physicians in all specialties to repay their loans in a timely manner with careful lifestyle choices and repayment plans.

“Cuts to state and federal support for higher education will continue to put upward pressure on student tuition and debt levels. If these trends continue, we are very concerned about the impact rising student debt levels will have on our ability to recruit a diverse physician workforce and ensure that we have enough physicians to care for our growing and aging population, as well as the poorest and most vulnerable among us,” said Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., AAMC president and CEO.

For more information:

Read the report, Physician Education Debt and the Cost to Attend Medical School:

Financial Information, Resources, Services, and Tools (FIRST):

The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association representing all 141 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and nearly 90 academic and scientific societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC represents 128,000 faculty members, 75,000 medical students, and 110,000 resident physicians. Additional information about the AAMC and U.S. medical schools and teaching hospitals is available at



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