U.S. medical schools are on track to increase their enrollment 30 percent by 2017, according to results of the annual Medical School Enrollment Survey conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Center for Workforce Studies, released Thursday.
First-year medical school enrollment is projected to reach 21,434 in 2017-18, 30 percent higher than first-year enrollment in 2002-03, which is the baseline year used to calculate the enrollment increases that the AAMC called for in 2006.
Medical schools are doing their part to expand enrollment to meet the projected physician shortage of more than 90,000 primary care and specialty doctors the nation faces by 2020, said Darrell Kirch, MD, AAMC president and CEO in a press release. He expressed concern that caps on federal funding of residency training may slow that drive.
“Congress now needs to do its part and act quickly to increase the number of federally funded residency training positions in order for all medical school graduates to be able to complete their training and become practicing physicians,” Kirch said in the press release.
The enrollment survey took place in September 2012, with 130 medical school deans responding.
Of the projected growth in medical school enrollment between 2002 and 2017, 62 percent will occur in the 125 medical schools that were accredited as of 2002, 31 percent in schools accredited since 2002 and 7 percent will come from schools that are currently applicant or candidate schools with the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.
More than half, or 55 percent, of the 4,946 new positions forecast by 2017 are expected to come from public medical schools, with the greatest growth occurring in the southern region, where schools account for 46 percent of the increase between 2002 and 2017.
The survey also found that 42 percent of the medical school deans surveyed expressed “major concern” at the national level about enrollment growth outpacing growth in the number of available residency training positions, also known as graduate medical education (GME).
Another 33 percent reported enrollment growth outpacing GME growth as a “major concern” in their state. The 2013 Residency Match marked only the second time there were more unmatched U.S. seniors than unfilled positions; the first time was 2010, according to AAMC data.
Among other challenges, medical school deans also reported significant strength in competition from osteopathic medical schools for clinical training sites and from other healthcare professionals, such as nurse practitioners and physicians assistants, the survey report said.
Seventy-six percent of medical school deans also said that they had either established or recently put in place at least one initiative to expand student interest in primary care specialties, including changes in curriculum, extracurricular opportunities, expanded faculty resources and changes in admissions criteria.