Medical schools welcome record number of students this fall, data show

(Photo by KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
(Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

Just as thousands of Americans are enrolling in new health insurance plans under Obamacare, new statistics show that a record number of students applied to and enrolled this fall in medical schools across the country.

Amid a shortage of physicians, statistics released Thursday by the Association of American Medical Colleges show that the number of medical school applicants for this year grew by 6.1 percent — to 48,014 — from the previous year. That exceeds the record set in 1996 by 1,049 students. Furthermore, a release by the association says, first-time applicants — one key indicator of interest in medicine — increased by 5.5 percent t to 35,727.

There was also a 3 percent increase from 2012 in the number of students who enrolled in their first year of medical school. That number, 20,044, exceeded 20,000 for the first time.

According to a statement by Darrel G. Kirch, the AAMC’s president and chief executive officer, the United States will face a shortage of more than 90,000 doctors by the end of the decade, just as more people are getting access to health care under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.  Kirch said:

Unless Congress lifts the 16-year-old cap on federal support for residency training, we will still face a shortfall of physicians across dozens of specialties. Students are doing their part by applying to medical school in record numbers. Medical schools are doing their part by expanding enrollment. Now Congress needs to do its part and act without delay to expand residency training to ensure that everyone who needs a doctor has access to one.

With more people expected to seek medical care as they enroll in the new health insurance exchanges, there are fears that that the shortage of doctors will become more acute. The law  includes support — through scholarships and graduate positions — to train more primary care doctors and adds new money to the  National Health Services Corps, which helps health care professionals who agree to work in areas where there is a shortage.

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | October 24, 2013