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Demographic Shifts in Medical Specialties Signal Potential Healthcare Shortages

With the growing concern of physician shortages in the United States, a new analysis has highlighted how age demographics among medical specialties could exacerbate the issue. Key findings indicate certain specialties with older practitioners are increasingly in demand, while younger physicians appear more represented in newer, often higher-paying, specialties.

Key Points:

  • In 2021, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reported around 945,000 practicing physicians in the US, with 53% under 55 and 47% aged 55 or older.
  • Specialties with the highest proportion of physicians over 55 include pulmonary disease (92%), preventive medicine (71%), clinical pathology (71%), cardiovascular disease (63%), and thoracic surgery (63%).
  • Specialties with the highest proportion of physicians under 55 include sports medicine (91%), pediatric anesthesiology (89%), pediatric internal medicine (88%), interventional cardiology (84%), and surgical sports medicine (79%).

Additional Points:

  • Certain specialties like pulmonary disease and cardiovascular disease are in high demand due to increasing health issues such as COPD, aging, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
  • The AAMC survey revealed that the number of practitioners in preventive medicine has dropped nearly half from its peak in the 1970s, and clinical pathology experienced an 18% drop in practitioners between 2007 and 2017.
  • The supply of active cardiologists and thoracic surgeons decreased between 2016 to 2021.
  • Newer specialties like sports medicine and pediatric anesthesiology have seen significant growth, with more younger doctors entering these fields.


  • The aging demographic among US physicians could pose significant challenges in the near future, particularly in high-demand specialties. Strategies to attract new doctors into the medical field and improve job satisfaction are critical to address these potential shortages.

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Did You Know?
One-third of active US physicians will be older than 65 within the next decade, potentially increasing healthcare shortages as they retire or drop out of the profession.

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