Medical School Enrollment to Increase 30% by 2016

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—New data released this month show that enrollment at U.S. medical schools is on target to reach an increase of 30 percent by 2016, according to the annual Medical School Enrollment Survey conducted by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) Center for Workforce Studies.

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

Released during the center’s 8th Annual Physician Workforce Research Conference, results of the survey show that first-year medical school enrollment is projected to reach 21,376 in 2016-17, a 29.6 percent increase above first-year enrollment in 2002-03. This puts projections on track to meet the 30 percent increase by 2015 that the AAMC called for in 2006.

Of the projected 2002-2016 growth in medical school enrollment, the survey found that 58 percent will occur in the 125 medical schools that were accredited as of 2002, 25 percent will occur in schools accredited since 2002, and 17 percent will come from schools that are currently applicant or candidate schools, according to the LCME (Liaison Committee on Medical Education). While some of these increases happened during the economic downturn of the past few years, more than half of the institutions responding to the 2011 survey (52 percent) indicated concern with their ability to maintain or increase enrollment due to the economic environment.

With the United States facing a shortage of more than 90,000 primary care and specialty doctors by 2020, according to AAMC estimates, an increase in federal funding to expand the number of residency training positions—which prepare new doctors for independent practice—is essential to expand the overall supply of U.S. physicians.

“Otherwise, it may become more difficult for medical students to complete their training and for patients to get the care they need—as our population continues to grow and age, more doctors retire, and 32 million Americans enter the healthcare system as a result of the Affordable Care Act," said Kirch.

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