Enrollment In Medical School Rises Slightly As Physician Demand Also Increases
New figures show that enrollment in medical school continues to rise as schools try to increase the number of graduates to meet the increasing physician need. But doctors cautioned that more residency positions are needed and urged federal officials to fund them.
Physicians News Digest reports: "Enrollment in both new and existing U.S. medical schools continues to expand to meet the nation's need for more doctors, according to data released today by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges). First-year enrollment in the nation's medical schools rose this year by 2 percent over 2008 to nearly 18,400 students."
"Expansion in medical school enrollment as well as graduate medical education, or 'residency' training positions is needed to avert an expected shortage of 124,000 to 159,000 physicians by 2025. As a result, the AAMC supports the 'Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act' (S.973/H.R.2251), which increases the number of Medicare-supported training positions for medical residents by 15 percent (approximately 15,000 slots). None of the reform bills currently before Congress includes more Medicare funding for graduate medical education positions. Instead, both the House and Senate legislation would redistribute about 1,000 unused residency training slots among a small group of targeted states. This year's AAMC data also indicated that the pool of medical school applicants remained stable at 42,269, a slight increase over 2008's total of 42,231 applicants" (10/20).
MedPage Today reports: "And this year four new medical schools -- FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine in Miami, Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, Pa., Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Paul L. Foster School of Medicine in El Paso, and the University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Orlando -- accepted their first students, adding 189 to the entering class tally."
A early signs, such as the number of people taking the Medical College Admission Test, indicate that "next year's medical school applicant pool will continue to edge upward. From January to August of this year, more than 67,000 individuals took the MCAT exam, a nearly 3% increase over 2008."
Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, president of AAMC, said "medical school enrollment now appears to outstrip postgraduate training capacity. ... The medical schools are working to meet that need, he said, but more residency training positions are needed" (Peck, 10/20).
U.S. News & World Report/HealthDay News reports on a different study that analyzed data in the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile and the U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey (CPS) to project the supply of doctors through 2040: "The future physician workforce in the United States may be younger but fewer in number than previously projected, a new study claims. ... In an average year, the CPS estimated 67,000 (10 percent) fewer active physicians than Masterfile. Estimates from both databases were similar for physicians aged 35 to 54, but showed marked differences for the numbers of active younger and older physicians. On average, the CPS estimated 22,000 (20 percent) fewer active physicians per year aged 55 to 64, and 35,000 (51 percent) fewer active physicians per year aged 65 and older than the Masterfile. The CPS estimated more young physicians (ages 25 to 34) than the Masterfile, with the difference increasing to an average of 17,000 (12 percent) during the final 15 years (2025 to 2040)." The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (10/20).
WSJ Blog reports: "For all the tumult in health care over the past decade, the picture for medical school applicants hasn't changed all that much. The number of first-year slots and the number of applicants have both grown a bit. But the ratio of applicants to slots - a key number for those who want to go to medical school - has remained essentially flat, at just over two applicants for every spot" (Goldstein, 10/20).