Guest Post: IDSA President Johan Bakken, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Johan Bakken posted a response to Mike's post yesterday about the ID subspecialty match. We thought we'd highlight the response for our readers, and we thank Johan for his thoughtful comments.   

I can assure all IDSA members and other health care providers who are concerned about the future supply of well-trained ID physicians that the ID future manpower issue is one of the top priorities on the strategic plan that IDSA formulated at our strategic planning meeting last June. IDSA has for several years actively worked on how to attract more talented young physicians to our field, starting as early as medical school. We are currently trying to affect changes to the microbiology teaching programs for medical students, in order to elevate the awareness and evoke interest to our field at an early stage of training. You are probably aware of the survey that was conducted among IM residents last spring and summer by Wendy Armstrong and Erin Bonura to try to understand the factors that influence young physicians in choosing a career in medicine; the survey results are still being scrutinized. Once the final data analysis has been completed we will inform all our members of the conclusions and recommendations. We were gratified to see a record attendance of medical students and residents at ID Week this fall (>400 combined), which indicates a growing interest in our field.

There is no question in my mind that the financial student loan burden and inadequate reimbursement for ID services are major disincentives for young physicians contemplating a career in ID. IDSA alone does not have the power or means to rectify the problem, but we are working very hard with legislators and policy makers on Capitol Hill to educate them about the possibility that America soon may not have the necessary workforce in public health to tackle future epidemic outbreaks, researchers to combat antibiotic resistance, inadequate supply of active antibiotic drugs due to lack of R & D, inadequate supply of trained ID physicians to direct the mandated ASPs in hospitals and long term care facilities, as well as provide excellent care for complicated patients with severe infections, chronic HCV and HIV infections and so on, unless the reimbursement structure for services is legislatively improved. The financial solution to these issues lies in the hands of our elected lawmakers, and IDSA will continue to advise our members of Congress on these issues. Pivotal to this point, Congress needs to find a solution that can ease or solve the loan repayment burden for young physicians, to make it attractive for them to choose a career in ID.

Next year all ID fellowships will be distributed via the all-in process, which will provide equity and fairness to the selection process and give us truer numbers of who and how many of the residents end up in an ID fellowship. 

All the issues I have outlined, and how IDSA plans to tackle these problems, were discussed by Steve Calderwood, IDSA past president, at the IDSA business meeting in San Diego last October, continue to be worked on by the IDSA staff and members of the IDSA board of directors. Please be assured that we hear your concerns are doing all we can to ensure that our future workforce will grow to handle all the ID challenges that lie ahead. 


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