Has the government done enough to help strengthen the ID workforce?
The field of infectious diseases has struggled in recent years to attract medical students.
We asked Daniel P. McQuillen, MD, FIDSA, FACP, president-elect of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and senior physician in the division of infectious diseases at Beth Israel Lahey Health, if the federal government has done enough to help strengthen the ID workforce.
High educational debt, relatively low compensation and the toll of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are straining the infectious disease physician and researcher workforce and contributing to alarming ID physician shortages at a time when society’s need for our specialty has never been clearer.
The federal government has taken recent steps to bolster the ID workforce. In 2020, CMS updated its outpatient evaluation and management (E/M) codes, bringing ID physicians and other cognitive specialties closer to fair reimbursement. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has been in dialogue with the IDSA on efforts to retain early-stage investigators and ensure a more diverse scientific workforce. Congress is developing legislation to provide loan repayment for ID physicians and other health professionals who work in preparedness or who provide ID care in underserved areas, and proposed bills to renew and strengthen the Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Program to recognize the role that foreign-born medical graduates play in the delivery of ID-related care.
Despite this progress, Congress and the Biden administration have additional work to do to help strengthen the ID workforce. CMS must move forward to update inpatient E/M codes to ensure equitable payment for our work. Congress should pass and fund the abovementioned legislation to provide loan repayment for ID physicians and measures to extend, expand and improve the J-1 Visa Program to work better for ID doctors. Congress should provide increased funding to NIAID to broaden access to early career support for a more diverse research workforce.
Strengthening the ID workforce must be one of the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic to better prepare our nation for future threats.
Click here to read the Cover Story, "‘Fauci effect’: ID experts could inspire new generation of doctors."