Medical schools approach nationwide enrollment goal

Medical school enrollment will rise 30 percent within the next five years, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges' (AAMC) Survey of Medical School Enrollment Plans.

By the 2019-2020 school year, AAMC projects, first-year medical school enrollment will hit 21,304, just 130 shy of the goal AAMC set as necessary to offset the physician shortage in 2006. AAMC credits the increase to more schools opening and others broadening programs or curricula to attract more students. If any of the nine schools not yet accredited achieve preliminary accreditation, enrollment would grow even faster, according to AAMC.

Of the 141 medical school deans AAMC surveyed, more than 7 in 10 schools said they plan to craft at least one program to drive interest in primary care among students. Comparatively, just under half of respondents had such a program in place in 2009, according to the survey results.

In an age of value-based care, it's particularly important to increase interest in primary care among students, as many look to more lucrative specialty care career paths. Even if interest increases, however, recent graduates face a residence shortage, and increasing the number of slots requires an act of Congress.

"Without an increase in federally funded residency training positions, all these new medical school graduates may not be able to complete their training and become practicing physicians," AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch said in a statement. Forty-eight percent of respondent expressed some level of concern about their students' ability to find residencies after graduating.

Lack of clinical training opportunities is another concern, according to AAMC. Eighty-seven percent of respondents expressed concerns on the number of clinical training sites and the number of qualified primary care preceptors, a 26 percent increase from 2010.

To learn more:
- read the survey results (.pdf)
- here's the statement

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