Strong Gains in 2012 Medical School Enrollment

Medical schools saw healthy gains in applications and enrollment with first-time enrollment reaching an all-time high and new diversity gains. However, the amount of residency positions is a reason for concern.

The number and diversity of students applying to and enrolling in medical schools saw a healthy 3.1% increase during 2012, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

More than 45,000 students applied to medical school in 2012, with first-time applicants setting a record 3.4% increase. First-time enrollment grew 1.5% to 19,517, an all-time high.

“Medicine continues to be a very attractive career choice for our nation’s best and brightest,” Darrell G. Kirch, MD, AAMC president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Given the urgent need our nation has for more doctors to care for our growing and aging population, we are extremely pleased with the continued growth in size and diversity of this year’s entering class of medical students.”

Enrollment for Black/African American students and Hispanic/Latino students both reached new highs. Broken down by gender, the first-time applicant growth came entirely from male applicants, which had a growth of 6.7%. There was no change in female applicants with 15,953 applicants in both 2011 and 2012. First-time female enrollees only grew by 0.3%, while men saw an increase of 2.6%.

The increased enrollment at medical schools is desperately needed as the nation is facing a projected 90,000 by 2020. The only way to meet that shortage is if medical school enrollment grows 30% from 2006 to 2016. As of now, enrollment is on track to meet that goal; however, that means nothing unless more residency positions are found.

According to Kirch, as of now the increased medical school enrollment won’t translate to any new doctors because of limits on residency training positions that Congress enacted in 1997. A new bill has been proposed to

“Medical schools are doing all they can to help alleviate the coming physician shortages by expanding enrollment,” Kirch said in a statement. “But we are nearing a critical deficit of residency training positions. Without support from Congress to lift the 15-year cap on residency training, some future MDs may not be able to complete their education and care for patients. It takes time to train a doctor, and we must start now.”