The number of applicants applying for the first time to U.S. medical schools reached an all-time high this year, according to data released Monday by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The number of first-timers grew by 2.6% from 2010 to 2011 to reach a total of 32,654 applicants.
The number of total med school applicants (including those who have applied in previous years) increased by 2.8% to 43,919 people applying for just over 19,000 open slots.
In addition to total applications, total enrollment in medical schools also increased -- by 3% since last year -- and there were 19,230 students who entered medical school in 2011, according to the AAMC.
"We are very pleased that medicine continues to be an attractive career choice at a time when our health care system faces many challenges, including a growing need for doctors coupled with a serious physician shortage in the near future," Darrel Kirch, MD, AAMC president and CEO, said in a press release.
This year also was a record-setter for minority applicants, Kirch told reporters in a Monday morning press call.
The increase in minority applicants was most pronounced among Hispanic/Latino applicants, as was the case last year. Medical school applications from Hispanics/Latinos increased by 5.8% since last year, and enrollment increased by roughly the same percentage.
The number of African-American applicants also increased this year -- by 4.8% -- following a decline in black applicants last year.
Asian-American applicants increased by 3.8%.
There was, however, a drop in applications received from American Indians, a group that already is way underrepresented in medical schools. In 2010, there were 200 American Indian medical school applicants and in 2011, there were nine fewer. There were just 157 American Indians who enrolled in medical school in 2011, down from 191 last year.
The majority (62%) of medical school applicants are white and the majority (66%) of people who enrolled in medical school in 2011 were white.
The percentage of male applicants remained slightly higher in 2011 compared with female applicants -- 51% compared to 49%. There was a slightly larger discrepancy among male versus female medical school enrollees -- 53% of medical school enrollees in 2011 were men, and 47% were women.
Applicants continue to have good credentials, according to the AAMC. The average applicant has a GPA of 3.5 and an MCAT score of 29.
There has been a more than 16% increase in enrollment in medical schools since 2002. In 2006, the AAMC called for a 30% increase from 2002 level in enrollment in medical school in order to alleviate future doctor shortages, which the group expects to reach 90,000 by 2020. The AAMC said current projections indicate that medical schools are on target to reach the 30% benchmark by 2017.
While the steady increase in medical school applications and enrollment is encouraging, there are won't be enough residency slots for medical school students to do their training at teaching hospitals unless the number of slots is increased, Kirsch told reporters in a Monday morning call.
"We need to continue and grow the support Medicare provides for residency training," Kirch said. "If there's an absence in residency programs, they won't go out and become totally trained doctors."
The AAMC has called on Congress to overturn a 1997 law that put a freeze on Medicare-funded residency positions.
Article By Emily P. Walker, Washington Correspondent, MedPage Today
Article Link: http://www.medpagetoday.com/PublicHealthPolicy/MedicalEducation/29229