Medical schools receive record number of applications

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, medical school applicants and enrollees have gone up significantly in the past 13 years. This year, the number of medical students enrolled reached a new high of 20,630 students – a 25 percent increase from 2002. First-time applicants increased by 4.8 percent from last year, a sign that interest in medical professions is increasing.

The number of minority applicants has also increased. African-American students showed the biggest increase in both applications and enrollments, which went up by 16.8 percent and 11.6 percent, respectively. Latino and Hispanic applicants rose by 6.9 percent with the number of enrollees up by 10.3 percent. There were 6.2 percent more first-year women applicants and 3.5 percent more first-year men applicants.

Importance of diversity
More diversity in medical school classrooms shows apromising future for healthcare professions across the board, according to the Outreach, the University of Vermont's blog. Patricia Prelock, a doctorate holder, UVM's College of Nursing and Health Sciences' dean, explained that greater diversity will mean better health care to minority and underserved patients.

"The patients we're serving now will look very different from the patients we're going to be serving in 20 years," Prelock told the Outreach. "If we don't have the cultural context of the people we're serving, we're not going to be effective as health care professionals. It's not just in medicine; it's in nursing, speech pathology, physical therapy, radiation therapy all the health professions."

According to Modern Healthcare, there have been greater efforts by medical schools to reach out to minority students. Rush Medical School in Chicago began making recruiting trips to historically black schools. It has also visited local high schools to invite students to show them what a medical student's day looks like.

A press release from Wayne State University announced a new program to reach out to high school students called Wayne Med-Direct. The program guarantees 10 high school students a year admission to the university's School of Medicine, plus four years of paid undergraduate tuition, room and board and four years of paid medical school tuition.

The program will help WSU's goal to give more opportunities to disadvantaged students from various socioeconomic backgrounds. Other schools are taking into account such factors as distance traveled to class and other obstacles the student has overcome.

Residency shortages
While the number of interested medical students is increasing, federal funding for residencies has stayed relatively the same since 1997, according to MedPage Today. Modern Healthcare reported that last spring, there were 27,293 residency openings. However, this fall saw an enrollment of 27,655 medical and osteopathic medicine students. They may graduate from medical school without the option to continue their education through a residency program.

MedPage Today said residency positions have grown by about 1 percent, though there will need to be a bigger growth in the coming years if teaching hospitals are to accommodate the growing number of aspiring medical professionals.

Atul Grover, MD, PhD, the chief public policy officer for the AAMC, explained this issue concerns many medical students who leave the country for their education, but come back to the U.S. to find a residency. These students are now finding they aren't able to get the training they need to continue their practice.

As the baby boomer population ages, the lack of residency spots available to aspiring healthcare professionals worries AAMC CEO Darrell Kirch. He explained to MedPage Today that, to accommodate the growing interest and need in healthcare professionals, Congress will need to implement program funding changes to ensure enough residency spots for future doctors and other medical professionals.