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Medical school enrollment increases 3.1%

Federal residency freeze could threaten enrollment gains

Topics: Recruitment and Retention, Workforce, Skill Development, Physician Issues

October 25, 2012

New Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) data show a 3.1% increase in medical school applications from 2011 to 2012, but a freeze on federally funded residency training may undermine that increase.

More medical school applicants for fall 2012 class

Altogether, more than 45,000 students applied to medical school for the fall 2012 class. The boost in enrollment figures comes amid projections that the United States faces a shortage of as many as 90,000 physicians by 2020.

According to AAMC, there were record numbers of applications and enrollments from racial and ethnic minorities: The number of black students increased to 1,416 and the number of Hispanic/Latino students increased to 1,731.

Overall, AAMC predicted a 30% increase in total medical school enrollment by 2016.

AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch says efforts to boost total enrollment have been enhanced with the addition of 11 new medical schools, which began admitting students between 2007 and 2012. An additional four schools are expected to open by fall 2013, he notes, adding that medical schools are taking more steps to attract applicants from underrepresented backgrounds.

Federal residency freeze threatens enrollment gains

However, AAMC notes that a freeze on federally funded residency training positions established by the 1997 Balanced Budget Act could halt the gains in medical school enrollments. Kirch says that unless Congress acts to end the freeze, there would be an inadequate number of available residency slots for students graduating in 2016.

Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate have introduced legislation (HR 6352, S 1627) that targets graduate medical education—which is supported by Medicare—for funding cuts, according to CQ HealthBeat. Both bills remain in committee (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 10/23 [subscription required]; Rao, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 10/23; McKinney, Modern Physician, 10/23 [subscription required]).

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