Medical school enrollment up 25%

New data shows U.S. medical school enrollment has grown by a quarter since 2002, adding more than 4,100 new students into the fold, according to a report released Thursday by Association of American Medical Colleges.

The research suggests enrollment will hit 21,434 students by the 2017-18 academic year, marking 30 percent growth over the 2002 baseline and accomplishing the AAMC's goal set a decade ago to help address the physician shortage. In addition to allopathic medical school enrollment growth, osteopathic schools have also seen marked growth in enrollment since 2002. When allopathic and osteopathic schools are combined, first-year enrollment is projected to hit 30,186 by 2020, which is a 55 percent increase over the 2002 baseline, according to AAMC.

"Our nation's medical schools have stepped up to meet the challenge the AAMC put before them in 2006," AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch, MD, said in a statement. "They understand the integral role they play in meeting the future health workforce needs of this country which, according to our latest data, will now require up to an additional 94,700 physicians by 2025."

Thirty-seven percent of anticipated growth in enrollment by the end of the decade has been attributed to the 20 additional medical schools that have been established since 2002, and with seven new schools on the way, new medical schools could account for an even greater enrollment growth.

This growth in medical school enrollment has 85 percent of medical school deans concerned about availability of sites for clinical clerkships, which are completed in the third and fourth years of medical school. Half of deans are concerned about the supply of residency positions as well, according to AAMC.  

"This growth is naturally going to put a strain on limited clinical resources and residency positions, which is a problem not only for the nation's future doctors but for the nation's future patients," Dr. Kirch said, calling on Congress increase support for residency training.

The report also notes increased efforts toward diversifying the physician workforce. As of last year, 84 percent of schools said they have already implemented or plan to implement in the next two years admission policies to recruit a diverse student body and increase underrepresented groups in medicine, including minorities, those from disadvantaged backgrounds and rural communities.


More articles on integration and physician issues:

Why hospitals should keep their friends close, and their ASCs closer
7 steps for building a clinically integrated network
Why Mayo Clinic is picking up the check for physicians to dine together

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