Medical school applications rises to record high
First-time applicants to medical schools around the nation reached an all time high, increasing 2.6 percent in 2011 – which could help put a dent in the expected shortage of doctors in the next several years.
The Association of American Medical Colleges, which reported that almost 33,000 students applied to the schools, said the shortage of doctors is expected to reach 90,000 by 2020 because of physician retirements and greater demand from aging baby boomers and the newly insured.
The federal health care reform law is expected to add 32 million Americans to the rolls.
“We are very pleased that medicine continues to be an attractive career choice at a time when our health care system faces many challenges, including a growing need for doctors coupled with a serious physician shortage in the near future,” said Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, the association president and chief executive.
Kirch also said that the pool of applicants is more diverse, and one in four expressed interest in practicing in underserved areas such as inner cities and rural communities. There already is a shortage of primary care physicians in underserved areas, though many doctors end up in specialties and in less needy areas because the pay is better.
There are programs that provide scholarships and loan forgiveness in exchange for serving as general practitioners in the underserved areas. Kirch called for more funding for the programs, and raising payments to primary care doctors for services.