Number of Medical School Applicants Decreasing, Study Says
The number of medical school applicants decreased last year for the sixth consecutive year and has fallen from 42,806 in 1993 to 33,625 in 2002, according to a study published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which this week focuses on medical education, USA Today reports (Davis, USA Today, 9/3). The study found that in this academic year the applicant pool decreased to slightly fewer than two applicants for every opening. According to the study, the proportion of medical students planning on entering primary care specialties, such as internal and family medicine, decreased to 44% last year because of factors including bureaucracy, loss of autonomy and falling reimbursements associated with primary medicine. While the amount of medical school graduates entering obstetrics and gynecology residency programs has remained between 6% and 8% for 15 years despite "soaring" malpractice insurance rates for those specialties, the percentage of students ranking it as their top choice specialty fell from 7.5% in 1996 to 6% in 2002, according to the study, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
The study found that medical school students are also increasingly choosing specialties that allow them "reasonable" control of their work schedules, incomes and lifestyles; the number of students entering the fields of dermatology, anesthesiology, ophthalmology, psychiatry and radiology has increased since 1996. The study also found a "steady increase" in the number of women applying to medical school; women now comprise 49% of all U.S. medical school applicants and 45% of all medical school graduates (McCullough, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/3). In addition, the number of minority medical school applicants -- who accounted for 11.6% of the students in last year's entering class -- has also decreased, which is of "particular concern," USA Today reports. Lead author Barbara Barzansky said of the study, "There has been lots of speculation about these ups and downs, but not a lot of data," adding, "You don't know what the real reason is. Is medicine becoming less attractive? Are there factors like concerns of reimbursement or the malpractice environment causing people to think otherwise? There is no way to know what any individual person is thinking" (USA Today, 9/3). The study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.