The Doctors of Tomorrow Are In … School, In Record Numbers

Oct 29, 2013, 9:00 AM

More students than ever applied to and enrolled in the nation’s medical schools this year, according to data released by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

Compared with last year’s figures, the total number of medical school applicants grew by 6.1 percent to 48,014, surpassing the previous record, set in 1996, by 1,049 students. Another important indicator of interest in medicine is first-time applicants, and they increased by 5.8 percent to 35,727 this year. The number of students enrolled in their first year of medical school exceeded 20,000 for the first time (20,055), a 2.8 percent increase over 2012.

“At a time when the nation faces a shortage of more than 90,000 doctors by the end of the decade and millions are gaining access to health insurance, we are very glad that more students than ever want to become physicians,” AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD, said in a news release. “Students are doing their part by applying to medical school in record numbers. Medical schools are doing their part by expanding enrollment.” Kirch pushed for an expansion of residency training to accommodate the greater number of students studying to become physicians.

Enrollment is also up this year at the nation’s osteopathic medical colleges, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM). Total enrollment at those schools is 22,054—an increase of 4.9 percent over fall 2012.

AAMC attributes some enrollment growth to the creation of new medical schools, and to existing schools’ efforts to expand class sizes in response to the association’s 2006 call for a 30 percent increase in enrollment to avert future physician shortages.

Medical school student diversity remained relatively steady, AAMC reported, with two notable gains: a 6.9 percent increase in first-time female applicants, after remaining flat in 2012; and continued growth in Latino enrollment, which rose by 5.5 percent.

See the data from AAMC and AACOM. Read coverage in FierceHealthcare and on MedPage Today.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.