A new report out last week from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) announced that the number of first-time medical school applicants had reached an all-time high. In 2011, the numbers increased by 2.6 percent over last year to more than 32,600 students. Total applicants rose by 2.8 percent to nearly 44,000, with gains across most major racial and ethnic groups for a second year in a row.
“At the same time the number of applicants is on the rise, we also are encouraged that the pool of medical school applicants and enrollees continues to be more diverse,” said Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., AAMC president and CEO. “This diversity will be important as these new doctors go out into communities across the country to meet the health care needs of all Americans.”
Even with these higher numbers, applicants were well qualified - an average GPA of 3.5 and an MCAT score of 29. Enrollment increased by three percent, with more than 19,200 students in the 2011 entering class. The number of new medical students has been growing steadily since 2001, when medical schools reported more than 16,300 first-year students.
Medical schools have steadily been increasing their class sizes since the AAMC called for a 30 percent increase in enrollment in 2006 to help alleviate anticipated physician workforce shortages. New medical schools are popping up around the country, including the latest Mayo Clinic expansion announcement in Scottsdale, Arizona, to meet these needs.
The majority of this increase came from existing schools while a smaller portion came from medical education programs established over the last ten years. Current projections indicate that medical schools are on target to reach the 30 percent enrollment increase by 2017.
“U.S. medical schools have been responding to the nation’s health challenges by finding ways not only to select the right individuals for medicine, but also to educate and train more doctors for the future. However, to increase the nation’s supply of physicians, the number of residency training positions at teaching hospitals must also increase to accommodate the growth in the number of students in U.S. medical schools. We are very concerned that proposals to decrease federal support of graduate medical education will exacerbate the physician shortage, which is expected to reach 90,000 by 2020,” said Kirch.
"Proposals to decrease federal support of graduate medical education are alarming," added AMSA National President, Danielle Salovich. "This nation is facing a large physician shortage and while U.S. medical schools are responding by training more future doctors the number of residency training positions at teaching hospitals must not decrease in order to accommodate this growth."