More Diversity Reflected in Medical School Enrollment

The past year has seen an increase in the number of applicants to US medical schools -- particularly among certain ethnic groups.

More minorities enrolled in US medical schools in 2010, according to data released by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which found that while total enrollment increased by 1.5% over 2009 all underrepresented racial and ethnic groups saw gains in 2010.

The most significant growth in minority students was in the percentage of Hispanic males who entered medical school this fall. According to the report, Hispanic male enrollees increased by 17.1%, while Hispanic female enrollees increased by 1.6% from 2009; total Hispanic enrollment, meanwhile, was up by 9%. The total enrollment for African Americans grew by 2.9% over 2009. Although the number of American Indians attending medical school is still small, this year's enrollees grew by 24.8%. These diversity gains in enrollment were spread across all regions of the country, with the largest increase seen in the West, which saw underrepresented minority enrollment grow from 14.4 % in 2009 to 16.1% this year.

“Improving the diversity of U.S. medical students will be a driver of excellence in our health care system,” said AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, MD. “We are very encouraged that more minority students are pursuing a career in medicine, and hope that these strong gains continue in the years ahead.”

AAMC data from 2010 also revealed that the total number of first-time applicants to medical school increased by 2.5% (31,834) over the 2009 total (31,063).

"The growth in first-time applicants demonstrates that medicine is still a compelling career choice for many individuals. A strong and robust applicant pool is essential for medical schools to continue to expand enrollment, and work to address the nation's physician shortages," added Kirch.

The overall medical school applicant pool saw a slight increase from 42,269 in 2009 to 42,742 in 2010. The gender breakdown for both applicants and enrollees was 53% male versus 47% female. Except for a slight decrease in African American applicants (0.2%), applications from all underrepresented minority groups increased or remained steady.

Additional findings from the report are as follows:

  • Hispanic/Latino applicant numbers grew from 3,061 in 2009 to 3,271 in 2010, representing a 6.9% increase. The number of Hispanic male applicants grew by 15%, and the number of female Hispanic applicants remained the same as in 2009.
  • The total number of American Indian applicants increased by 9.5%. There were 379 applicants in 2009 and 415 this year.
  • Asian American applicants rose by 3.2%, while enrollees increased by 2.4% over 2009.
  • Male applicants (22,534) to US medical schools continued to outnumber female applicants (20,207) in 2010.

For more information:

  • Medical Students and the Depression Stigma
  • Physician Shortage Expected to Balloon to 91,500 in 2020
  • Journal of the National Medical AssociationRecruitment of underrepresented minority students to medical school: minority medical student organizations, an untapped resource

The results from this report are encouraging, but what can be done to further increase minority enrollment in medical schools? Why might there still be hesitancy?