Many infectious disease specialist fellowship programs across the country remain unfulfilled with only 74% of ID fellowship positions and 56% of ID fellowship programs being filled on Match Day. The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) notes that the overall number of infectious disease applicants has reduced despite a further increase in certified program numbers. IDSA president and vice chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Infectious Diseases Steven K. Schmitt, MD, FIDSA, explains that there is a persisting shortage of ID physicians in both pediatric and adult ID.
Data from the society shows that only 74% of 441 ID fellowship positions and 56% of 178 ID fellowships were filled compared to 70% of positions and 82% of fellowship programs last year. Furthermore, the IDSA reports that the total number of ID applicants went down from 364 in 2022 to 320 this year.
The ID physician shortage has plagued America’s medical system for several years. With the country still recovering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and experts predicting that climate change could increase infectious disease outbreaks, this shortage is especially worrying.
Even though infectious disease specialists have a significant impact on personal and public health, low compensation for ID specialists is a major barrier to recruiting new talent, Schmitt says. Research indicates that the complexity involved in specializing in infectious diseases coupled with its importance to patient health with low pay make it unattractive to many professionals. Schmitt adds that massive student loans, the entrance of divisive politics into the medical sector, and the challenges involved in dealing with COVID-19 have also dissuaded many from specializing in ID.
An October study found that even though ID specialists were paid less than nephrology, rheumatology and endocrinology specialists, they published 77% more journals and the IDSA had far more recommendations.
While some believed that the pandemic would attract new medical professionals to the ID specialty, recruitment numbers in the years after COVID-19 have consistently dropped. Infectious Diseases Society of America Training Program Directors Committee chair and Emory University professor of medicine Wendy S. Armstrong, MD, says that significantly fewer medical residents have been specializing in infectious diseases in the past several years.
Specialty experts have been raising the alarm on dwindling recruitment numbers for several years now, with the IDSA even writing to Congress about the discrepancy between ID compensation compared to its massive impact on patient and public health.
Schmitt says solving the complex issues causing the snowballing ID physician shortage will call for collaboration between physicians in the field, health system leaders and policymakers.
Not all is doom and gloom in the infectious disease field, however. The treatment improvement side is seeing plenty of investment as companies such as Scinai Immunotherapeutics Ltd. (NASDAQ: SCNI) focus on developing immunotherapies targeting some of the infectious diseases taking a huge toll on the population not just in the United States but around the world.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to Scinai Immunotherapeutics Ltd. (NASDAQ: SCNI) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/SCNI
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