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The State of Medical School Education


More medical students indicated they were trained in teams with other health care professionals, plus the average amount of debt increased 2% from last year. Also, they indicated they received inadequate training in practice management issues.

More medical students indicated that their education included training in teams with other health care professionals, according to survey results.

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released its annual Medical School Graduation Questionnaire, which provides a glimpse into medical school programs and issues students have faced. The 2013 survey revealed that 73.4% of graduating students had the opportunity to learn with students from different health professions, up from 68.8% last year and 65.6% in 2011.

“The education of these graduates has been greatly enhanced through interprofessional training, increased faculty interactions, and other experiences during their undergraduate medical education. This survey shows that the nation’s medical schools are hard at work creating new and enhanced programs to better prepare tomorrow’s physicians to care for patients,” said Darrell G. Kirch, MD, AAMC president and chief executive officer.

The survey also revealed the ever-increasing amount of student loans that medical school graduates are burdened with. The average debt increased 2% from 2012 to $135,084. Although the percent of students graduating with debt (84.4%) is relatively unchanged, more plan to enter loan forgiveness programs, up from 29.4% in 2012 to 38.1% in 2013.

Nearly two-thirds had no premedical debt and of those who did, just 36.6% still owes $1,000 or more on those loans. The average premedical debt of all respondents was $11,849, down from significantly from $14,356 in 2009.

The survey revealed what many working physicians have known for some time: medical school doesn’t prepare students for practice management. As part of the questionnaire, students were asked to rate whether their instruction within specific areas was inadequate, adequate or excessive. Students indicated that the they were most inadequately prepared in the Practice of Medicine area, followed by the Population-Based Medicine.

While just 2% of students indicated that they were inadequately instructed in HIPAA and patient confidentiality and privacy, much higher percentages of students felt inadequately prepared for the other sections within Practice of Medicine. Half felt inadequately instructed in practice management, 38.8% in managed care, 62% in medical economics and 63.3% in medical licensure/regulation. The last had by far the highest percentage of students who felt they were inadequately instructed.

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority (85.5%) have already decided they want to become certified in a specialty, while 10.6% are still undecided. The most popular specialty was general surgery with 16.4%, followed by pathology (10.4%) and emergency medicine (9.5%).

The survey also revealed that medical students getting ready to graduate haven’t become as jaded with the profession as practicing doctors. Just 7.1% said they probably would not become a physician if they could revisit their career choice, while 30.3% said they probably would and 54% said they definitely would.

A third of the graduating class expects to become full-time university faculty (clinical teaching/research) while 20% expects to work full-time at a clinical practice with three or more physicians. Only 1.5% are interested in solo practice; 1.8% in a practice with one other physician; and 9.5% in working salaried at a hospital.

Surprisingly, 30% plans to locate practices in underserved areas with 46.7% undecided so far. However, California is the most popular location for those who know where they want to practice with 12.1% of respondents.

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