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New Data Reveals that More Women than Men are Enrolling in U.S. Medical Schools

December 28, 2017

For the first time, the number of women enrolling in U.S. medical schools has exceeded the number of men. New data released by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reveals that women made up 50.7 percent of the 21,338 new enrollees during 2017, compared with 49.8 percent during 2016.

The report states that, since 2015, the number of women applying to medical school has increased by 4.0 percent, while the number of male applicants has declined 6.7 percent.

The AAMC has been working to achieve broader diversity among medical students, faculty, and leadership. The data tells a positive story that more woman see a promising career in medicine and that medical schools are doing more to develop an inclusive environment. In addition, from 2015 to 2017, black or African American matriculants increased by 12.6 percent, and matriculants who were Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin rose by 15.4 percent.

Overall, during 2017, the number of new students in U.S. medical schools is up 1.5 percent. However, the number of applicants to medical schools declined by 2.6 percent from 2016, which is the largest decrease in 15 years. Despite this decline, the overall number of medical school applicants has increased more than 50 percent, and the number of matriculants has grown by nearly 30 percent during the last 15 years.

The academic credentials and experience of medical school applicants during 2017 remain "very strong," according to the AAMC. Data shows that 77 percent have done volunteer community service in a medical or clinical setting and 77 percent have already had research experience.

The AAMC findings come at a time when the health care delivery system is expressing great concern about looming physician shortages. AAMC leaders caution that expanding medical school enrollment is a very positive trend, but more will need to be done in the policy arena to address those shortages.

HAP has joined the American Hospital Association and other provider groups to urge Congress to lift the cap on federal support for medical residency positions, which was enacted 20 years ago. Bipartisan legislation to increase federal support for residency training has been introduced in both the House and Senate.

Pennsylvania has one of the largest and growing aging populations, a group that frequently has more than one chronic illness. The health care workforce will need to expand in order to meet the needs of these patients.

The results from the AAMC annual survey of matriculating medical students also found:

  • More students indicated that having a work-life balance rather than a “stable, secure future” or the “ability to pay off debt” was an “essential consideration” in their career paths after medical school
  • Nearly 30 percent of new medical students indicated plans to eventually work in an underserved area

HAP continues to encourage lawmakers to look at multiple approaches to increasing the health care workforce to ensure patients have access to affordable, quality health care in all communities.

For additional information on physician-related issues, contact Dr. Michael Consuelos, HAP’s senior vice president, clinical integration.

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