Women leading climb in med school applications
■ Total applications rise during a slow economy.
By Myrle Croasdale — Posted Nov. 8, 2004
The number of women applying to medical school outpaced men for the second year in a row, with women making up 50.4% of the 2004 applicant pool, according the Assn. of American Medical Colleges.
"We are gratified to see that the gender gap that existed in medicine for so long is disappearing," said Jordan J. Cohen, MD, AAMC president.
Those admitted to the class of 2004-05 were almost evenly divided by gender as well, with women making up 49.5% of the class.
The increase in women applicants helped to lift total applicants 2.7% from the previous year. Applicant numbers peaked at 46,965 in 1996 before declining over six years to a low of 33,625 in 2002. This year's pool was 35,727, the second year in a row the number has risen.
Dr. Cohen tied the upswing in applicants to the sluggish economy.
"It shows that with the economic downturn of the last few years, students are looking at medicine more favorably," he said. "When the economy doesn't look so rosy, students are more apt to consider medicine as a way to go."
The number of underrepresented minorities entering medical school also saw an uptick. Black enrollment increased 2.5% compared with the previous year, while the number of Hispanics starting medical school was up almost 8% from a year ago.
Dr. Cohen attributed the rise in minority enrollment to the Supreme Court decision in June 2003 supporting affirmative action in higher education. Admissions committees now felt free to consider race along with applicants' academic achievements.
While the number of medical school applicants has fluctuated, the number of medical student positions and graduate medical slots have stayed virtually unchanged, causing a growing number of health policy watchers to warn that the country is at risk for a physician shortage.
Dr. Cohen said the AAMC was preparing to revise its policy on the physician work force soon, hinting that it may advocate an expansion of undergraduate and graduate medical education.
The data cover AAMC's 125 U.S. allopathic med school members and does not include the 20 U.S. medical schools within the American Assn. of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.