The number of first-time medical school applicants reached a new high in 2011.
The number of first-time applicants to medical schools is on the rise, increasing by 2.6% in 2011, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. And total applicants rose by almost 3%.
“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,” Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., AAMC president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
The 2011 entering class reported 19,230 students. Medical school class sizes have steadily increased since 2006, when AAMC called for a 30% increase in enrollment “to help alleviate anticipated physician workforce shortages.”
AAMC’s projections predict that medical schools will reach that 30% enrollment increase by 2017.
“U.S. medical schools have been responding to the nation’s health challenges by finding ways not only to select the right individuals for medicine, but also to educate and train more doctors for the future,” Kirch said in a statement. “However, to increase the nation’s supply of physicians, the number of residency training positions at teaching hospitals must also increase to accommodate the growth in the number of students in U.S. medical schools. We are very concerned that proposals to decrease federal support of graduate medical education will exacerbate the physician shortage, which is expected to reach 90,000 by 2020.”
Gains in applicants were recorded across most major racial and ethnic groups for the second year in a row. Although African American applicants had decreased in 2010, the group saw a large increase of 4.8%. Hispanics/Latinos also had a large increase of 5.8%.
“At the same time the number of applicants is on the rise, we also are encouraged that the pool of medical school applicants and enrollees continues to be more diverse,” Kirch said. “This diversity will be important as these new doctors go out into communities across the country to meet the health care needs of all Americans.”