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Medical School Enrollment Increases Slightly

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
October 23, 2009

Enrollment in U.S. medical schools inched up this year, but the experts fear that the increase is unlikely to stave off an expected physician shortage.

The Association of American Medical Colleges reported this week that first-year enrollment in the nation's medical schools rose by 2 percent over 2008 to a total of about 18,400 students--about 350 more enrollees than in 2008. But the association warned that future graduates could face a shortage of residency slots which would cut down on the number of doctors who could be trained.

"The nation's medical schools are working hard to meet the growing demand for more physicians by boosting their enrollment," said Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, president and CEO of AAMC. "But we must also increase the number of residency training slots to prevent a bottleneck in the pipeline of new physicians, and ensure access to care for the millions of Americans who hopefully will attain coverage under health care reform."

AAMC pointed out that residency training positions are crucial to averting an expected shortage of 124,000 to 159,000 doctors by 2025. Experts note that an aging population, increased retirement of older physicians, and the possibility that millions will become insured through health care reform would all contribute towards the physician shortage.

Half of the enrollment increase was the result of four new medical schools which accepted their first classes this year. The schools included Florida International University, Texas Tech University, the University of Central Florida and the Commonwealth Medical College in Pennsylvania. In addition, 12 existing medical schools increased their 2009 class sizes by at least 7 percent this year.

"U.S. medical schools are stepping up to keep the pipeline of new physicians flowing so all Americans will have access to the care they need regardless of whatever form health care reform takes," said Kirch in a news conference, which was quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

While enrollments increased at medical schools, the AAMC data indicated that applications to medical schools remain relatively stagnant. In 2009, applications increased only 0.1 percent, and in 2008, applications actually decreased by 0.2 percent.

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