Yes. In 1986, the AMA Task Force on Physician Manpower, of which I was chairman, issued its final report on the supply and distribution of physicians in the United States. We concluded that many areas have a net surplus of physicians.

We also found that in most parts of the U.S. there's already a surplus in some specialties and an impending surplus in most. This impending surplus will probably have unwanted effects on the quality and cost of care.

At the outset of our investigations, I was skeptical. But now I'm convinced that our task force's conclusions are valid.

Past actions to increase the supply of physicians -- with new medical schools, bigger classes and more FMGs {define} -- have achieved their purpose. The number of physicians per 100,000 Americans rose from 148 in 1965 to 223 in 1984, as the total number of physicians rose from 292,000 to 537,000. If we continue to produce physicians at the same rate, we'll inevitably have a growing surplus.

It would be nai ve to assume that the U.S. has an infinite ability to absorb physician services. In Italy, for instance, some medical school graduates immediately go on public assistance because issues of physician supply were not adequately addressed in the past.

We haven't reached that stage yet, but more and more physicians are finding they must practice in fields outside their specialty training because of a local surplus in their field.

Even if we start corrective action as soon as 1990, during the four-year period from the time of our report until then we'll have committed ourselves to producing about 250,000 additional physicians -- those already in medical school and residencies in 1986 plus four new classes. -- Dr. Charles N. Aswad assistant clinical professor of family practice State University of New York, Syracuse No. From the viewpoint of U.S. society, right now we have what I would call a comfortable number of doctors. The median income of U.S. physicians does not suggest an oversupply. If we have too many doctors, why aren't physician incomes falling?

Over the past few decades, physicians in the U.S. have become used to viewing as normal a situation in which they were in short supply and thus able to dominate patients and the delivery system. They're understandably uncomfortable with changes in their status.

But in reality, there's no doctor glut in America -- an abundant supply, perhaps, but not a surplus. Any U.S. physician who wants to deliver care full time can do so.

Forecasts of rising doctor-patient ratios can't be compared with historical figures because the physician supply of the 1990s will contain a higher percentage of women.

Women physicians are certainly as competent as men, but they tend to practice fewer weeks a year and fewer hours a week, and to see fewer patients an hour. The data so far suggest that in terms of doctor-patient ratios, we should count each woman dcotor as 0.7 of a man.

And the patient population will be aging. Since the aged use more services, they'll take up some of the slack. These factors indicate that any surplus will be mild.

I believe the increased supply of physicians will improve the quality of medical care and enhance dimensions of quality that U.S. physicians have traditionally neglected.

As doctors face more competition for patients, they'll need to treat them as customers rather than as children. Physicians will have to try harder to please patients -- and to communicate with them.

Dr. Reinhardt is the James Madison Professor of Political Economy Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs Princeton, N.J.