3 reasons why physicians aren't specializing in infectious diseases

The U.S. is facing a dire shortage of infectious disease specialists and some experts point to a complex web of issues that currently face the specialty as drivers of the shortage, Fox News reported Jan. 25.

New physicians are largely dodging the infectious diseases (ID) specialty, with 44 percent of ID programs left unfilled after the latest specialty fellowships Match Day on Nov. 30. Many programs are recruiting applicants who did not match and hoping to attract other residents training in the same university hospitals.

The low numbers of ID applicants comes after a record-high number of medical school applications in the last cycle. 

Experts point to three potential reasons why the infectious disease specialty is no longer appealing:

  • Infectious disease physicians routinely work longer hours for lower compensations, compared to other medical specialties. "[Infectious disease] is one of the few specialties, if not the only specialty, where you make less after training than before," Carlos del Rio, MD, president of Infectious Diseases Society of America, told Fox News.

  • Many blame the pandemic for polarizing the specialty and leading to "the potential for personal risk of being harassed or threatened for publicly expressing ID opinions or advice on topics that become politicized," Cindy Whitener, MD, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center, told Fox News.

  • Some critics argue the infectious disease fellowship programs expanded too rapidly in past years.

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