Med school enrollment growth won't ease doc shortage

U.S. medical schools are on pace to see enrollment reach more than 21,000 by 2017, according to a new survey from the Association of American Medical Colleges Center for Workforce Studies.

But despite the 30 percent enrollment growth, experts warn the predicted shortage of physicians will remain unless the number of federally funded residencies increases from levels frozen since 1997, as FierceHealthcare previously reported.

"[T]his will not result in a single new practicing physician unless Congress acts now to lift the cap on residency training positions," AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., said yesterday in a statement.

Without more Medicare-supported physician training residency slots, not all medical school graduates will be able to complete their training and begin practicing medicine.

The survey also revealed apprehension among medical school deans, with 42 percent expressing "major concern" about nationwide enrollment growing faster than graduate medical education (GME), and 33 percent reporting it as a "major concern" in their state.

In fact, the AAMC survey noted this year's Match Day on March 15 marked second time that unmatched M.D. seniors outnumbered unfilled positions.

This year also saw the largest Match Day in history, involving more than 40,000 registrants. It was the fourth straight year in which the residency-matching program placed increased numbers of medical school graduates into primary care training positions--due to increased competition in specialties and the Affordable Care Act's heavy emphasis on primary care, FiercePracticeManagement previously reported.

Increased interest won't placate frustrated medical school deans who question the adequacy of clinical training opportunities. Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents said they were concerned about the number of clinical training sites for their students, 82 percent about the supply of qualified primary care preceptors, and 67 percent about the supply of qualified specialty preceptors, according to the AAMC.

Moreover, most schools reported being concerned about inpatient and outpatient volumes in the clinical opportunities for their students (54 percent and 62 percent, respectively).

For more:
- here's the AAMC announcement and survey (.pdf)