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Enrollment rates rise at U.S medical schools, but that’s only half the battle


The AAMC says the U.S. needs more residency slots to address coming physician shortage 

The enrollment rate of medical students in the U.S has grown by 52 percent since 2002, according to a recent study done by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The study results, which include both traditional and osteopathic medicine, surpassed expectations set by the AAMC in 2006.


In addition, 29 new medical schools have opened along with 17 schools in osteopathic medicine. Nevertheless, the AAMC still has some concerns, particularly with the limited availability of residency slots. While medical school enrollment numbers have risen, the number of residency positions have only increased by one percent, according to the study.


This is troubling, AAMC officials say, because the U.S. is projecting a shortage of us to 122,000 physicians by 2032, including a shortage of up to 55,000 physicians in primary care and 66,000 in other specialties.


“Now the national focus must shift to increasing the number of residency training slots so the nation will have enough physicians to combat the impending shortage and care for our growing and aging population,” said Atul Grover, MD, PhD, AAMC’s executive vice president, in a news release.


In 2018, 85 percent of survey respondents- the deans of U.S. medical schools- expressed concern about the number of clinical training sites, and 88 percent of respondent expressed concern about the supply of qualified primary care preceptors, the study reports.


Congress limits the number of residency training slots because of a 1997 law that limits which programs receive funding through Medicare. This funding is crucial because a majority of hospitals cannot afford to support training programs on their own, according to research by the AAMC.  


The AAMC has voiced its support for a new legislation, the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act of 2019, which could address the issue.


“The cap on residency positions will continue to exacerbate the projected physician shortage until Congress acts,” Grover said. “The medical education community has done its part. Now, Congress must do its part by passing the bipartisan Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act."

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