September 6, 2023 by
Lucy Gardner Carson
Lauren MacAfee, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences
(SEPTEMBER 6, 2023) Lauren MacAfee, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences (OB/GYN), and other Larner faculty spoke with Newsweek for an article about changes in residency applications in the wake of the Dobbs decision overturning the federal abortion protection of Roe v. Wade in June 2022.
Early data released by the Association of American Medical Colleges in April shows that states with abortion bans saw a larger decrease in residency applications during the 2022–23 cycle when compared to those where abortion is legal or where gestational limits are in place. While there was a 5.2 percent decrease in OB/GYN applicants nationally, applications in abortion-banned states saw a drop of more than double, at 10.5 percent. Nevertheless, while applicant after applicant reported that the Dobbs decision had influenced where they would apply for residency programs, almost all of the most restrictive states continued to fill their residency positions.
The process of residency matching, and particularly the OB/GYN specialty, is so competitive that applicants are desperate to match, even if it means completing residency in a state with more abortion restrictions, because they could still go on to practice medicine in a state where abortion is protected.
As MacAffe told Newsweek, “Folks will pursue better opportunities where they can.”
Officials with the University of Vermont’s Robert Larner College of Medicine told Newsweek that the school’s OB/GYN program has seen a 48 percent increase in the number of residency applicants since 2019, despite a 3 percent rise nationally. The number of applications has risen steadily, and in the application cycle following the Dobbs decision, the numbers once again jumped 48 percent.
“I would say those numbers are very significant,” said Melissa Davidson, M.D., professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics and associate dean for graduate medical education at Larner.
“There is a big push nationally to figure out how we as a community of educators can continue to provide this necessary training across the country, so it is not just limited to residents who live and work in supportive states,” Bronwyn Kenny, M.D., OB/GYN residency program director at Larner, told Newsweek. “And not just for OB/GYN trainees. This is necessary training—at least to have some passing familiarity with the concepts—for several different specialties, family medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics and adolescents. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum of OB/GYN.”
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