Years of advocacy spearheaded by medical students and residents in Virginia, coordinating with other physicians in the state, have led to funding to create an additional 25 graduate medical education (GME) slots during a time of stagnant funding and unchanged volumes of available residency slots nationwide.

The federal government is the primary source of funding for GME. Congress, holding the purse strings, has not increased funding for residences since the late 1990s. That stagnation in funding is happening even as new medical schools are opening and existing medical schools are increasing their enrollments to meet the need for more physicians.

Observing an aging and frailer population, coupled with an insufficient supply of physicians to treat patients in its state, Virginia’s medical community took action.

“We needed to start exploring other options,” said Virginia native Joshua Lesko, MD, a delegate to the AMA Resident and Fellow Section. He was active in the campaign to push for more slots in the state. “We need more physicians and the current system isn’t sustainable.”

For the last few years, with help from the Medical Society of Virginia (MSV), an advocacy campaign composed of physicians, residents and medical students pushed for broader inclusion of GME funding in Virginia’s budget. In 2016, they finally received notice of approval for an additional $2.5 million for the 2017 budget, which will be used to fund 25 new GME residency slots beginning July 1.

The campaign began in 2014, when advocates for expanding residency slots in Virginia sent hundreds of emails to state legislators to educate them on the role of residents and the need for GME expansion. The campaign aimed to show the positive impact increased funding would have on the quality of life for Virginia’s citizens. Jenny Young, the MSV’s senior engagement and membership manager, worked alongside Dr. Lesko and other key members.

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