The number of women enrolling in medical school in 2016 increased 6.2 percent over last year to 10,474, according to data released Nov. 1 by the AAMC. This represents the largest increase since 2006.
Overall, more students are applying to U.S. medical schools, with applications in 2016 reaching a new high of 53,042. First-time applicants—an important indicator that demonstrates interest in careers in medicine—topped previous years’ numbers at 38,782. In addition, the total number of enrollees at the nation’s medical schools surpassed 20,000 (21,030) for the fourth year in a row, a 27.5 percent increase since 2002. Among first-time applicants, the number of women increased by 5.3 percent over 2015, reaching 19,682. In 2016, enrollment in medical school was evenly divided between women (49.8 percent) and men (50.2 percent).
“It is gratifying to see a record number of women enrolling in medical school, and that more students than ever are answering the call to serve their communities. This growth in applicants and enrollees is good news for our growing, aging population, particularly given the real and significant doctor shortage the country is facing in the coming decade.”
Darrell G. Kirch, MD
AAMC President and CEO
“The many K–12 pipeline programs and undergraduate efforts that encourage young women and girls to apply to and enter medicine and science fields could certainly be contributing to the increase in the growth in the number of female medical school applicants and enrollees,” said Diana Lautenberger, AAMC director of women in medicine and science. “These programs, along with recent social media campaigns, such as #ilooklikeasurgeon, are having an impact on generating interest among young women to pursue a career in medicine and science.”
“It is gratifying to see a record number of women enrolling in medical school, and that more students than ever are answering the call to serve their communities. This growth in applicants and enrollees is good news for our growing, aging population, particularly given the real and significant doctor shortage the country is facing in the coming decade,” said Darrell G. Kirch, MD, AAMC president and CEO.
According to a comprehensive study released by the AAMC earlier this year, the United States will face a shortage of between 61,700 and 94,700 physicians by 2025. To help ensure physician supply meets future patient demand, 22 new medical schools have opened over the past 20 years.
“While medical schools have done their part to address the shortage, for nearly two decades there has been a cap on federal support for physician training that was supposed to be temporary. Congress needs to step in and lift this cap,” said Karen Fisher, JD, AAMC chief public policy officer. “The AAMC supports legislation that has been introduced to increase federal support for residency training so that patients will have access to care when they need it.”
Moving toward a more diverse workforce
In 2016, the nation’s medical schools continued to build diverse classes across a number of racial and ethnic backgrounds. More than 2,000 Hispanic, Latino, or people of Spanish origin enrolled in medical school in 2016, and the number of black and African Americans enrollees surpassed 1,700. In addition, more than 5,400 Hispanic, Latino, or individuals of Spanish origin, and nearly 5,000 black or African-American students applied to medical school this year.
“We are optimistic that these data show an increase in diversity among medical school enrollees, but we’re also cautious about drawing conclusions about whether these findings mean a true increase because of a change in methodology,” Kirch said. “What we do know is that AAMC-member medical schools are leading pipeline programs, outreach efforts, and new and creative admissions initiatives to create a future workforce that reflects the diversity of our population, and is best suited to meet the needs of patients.”
Finding a well-rounded student
Students also are coming into medical school with backgrounds in the health sciences. In a slight increase over last year, more than three-quarters of applicants had research experience. The same percentage, 76 percent, reported volunteer community service in medical or clinical settings.
The average undergraduate grade point average of 2016 applicants remained unchanged at 3.55; the median score on the Medical College Admissions Test® (MCAT®) was 502 for students who took only the new exam, which launched in 2015. This year, most medical schools accepted scores from either the old or the new MCAT exam. The new exam tests a broader range of knowledge and reasoning skills and required different preparation than the previous version. Applicants were advised to take the MCAT exam that they were best prepared for and to test when they were ready.
“Students are entering medical school with strong academic credentials and impressive research and community service experience,” said Kirch.
Test scores and grades, however, are not the only focus for admissions officers. “More than one-third of the nation’s medical schools are using holistic review to look, not just at grades and test scores, but also at an applicant’s personal characteristics, experiences, and attributes,” Kirch said.