AAMC expects 30% medical school enrollment increase

Published on: 

Spurred in part by a predicted dearth of PCPs, American medical colleges boosted enrollment and now say they're on track to reach their goal by 2016. But one big hurdle remains.

Reinforcements are on the way to combat the predicted shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs) and specialty physicians needed to care for the aging Baby Boomer generation and others, according to a new study by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The AAMC recommended in 2006 that medical schools initiate enrollment increases to head off the 90,000 PCP and specialty care doctor shortage expected by 2020. Enrollment study data released recently by the organization shows that  U.S. medical schools are on their way to achieving the 30% enrollment increase it requested by 2016. Now, AAMC leaders say, residency positions must be expanded to match the enrollment increases.

“U.S. medical schools are doing all they can to address a serious future physician shortage in this country. We are pleased to see that enrollment continues to grow, both through the expansion of existing medical schools and the establishment of new ones,” says Darrell G. Kirch, MD, AAMC president and chief executive officer. “But this won’t amount to a single new doctor in practice without an expansion of residency positions.”

Medical school deans polled for the AAMC survey indicated that they are concerned about the number of qualified primary care instructors and their ability to provide an increased number of students with clinical training. Roughly half of the deans also expressed concern over being able to maintain or increase class sizes in the current economic environment.

Still, the numbers look good, according to the AAMC.

Combined MD and DO program enrollment at the nation’s accredited medical schools already has increased by 28%, and it is projected to reach 26,709 by 2016-a 37% increase over enrollment totals from 2002.

MD program enrollment alone has increased 16.6% since 2002, and it is expected to rise another 29.6% by 2016, the survey notes. Osteopathic program enrollment is increasing even more rapidly, according to the study, with total enrollment up 90% from 2002 to 2011 and expected to climb by 108% from 2002 to 2016.