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More Women Than Men Enrolled in U.S. Medical Schools in 2017

December 17, 2017

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Stuart Heiser, Sr. Media Relations Specialist

For the first time, the number of women enrolling in U.S. medical schools has exceeded the number of men, according to new data released today by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges).

Females represented 50.7% of the 21,338 matriculants (new enrollees) in 2017, compared with 49.8% in 2016. Female matriculants increased by 3.2% this year, while male matriculants declined by 0.3%. Since 2015, the number of female matriculants has grown by 9.6%, while the number of male matriculants has declined by 2.3%.

Overall, the number of matriculants in U.S. medical schools rose by 1.5% this year, and total enrollment stands at 89,904 students.

In contrast, the number of applicants to medical school declined by 2.6% from 2016. Although this is the largest decrease in 15 years, it is not the first; previous declines occurred in 2002 and 2008. As with matriculants, there was a significant difference by sex: the number of female applicants declined by 0.7%, while male applicants fell 4.4%. Since 2015, the number of female applicants has increased by 4.0%, while the number of male applicants has declined 6.7%. While the majority of matriculants this year were female, males remained a slight majority (50.4%) of applicants.

As in past years, the academic credentials and experience of medical school applicants in 2017 remain very strong:

  • 77% reported volunteer community service in a medical or clinical setting.
  • 77% reported already having research experience.
  • The average undergraduate GPA of applicants increased slightly to 3.56; the median MCAT® score was 505.

Despite this year’s decline, the overall number of medical school applicants has increased more than 50% since 2002, and the number of matriculants has grown by nearly 30% over the last 15 years. Twenty-two new medical schools have opened since 2007, including two in the last year, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Washington State University. Among matriculants in 2017, 8.7% attend one of these 22 schools.

Entering classes at the nation’s medical schools continue to diversify. From 2015 to 2017, black or African American matriculants increased by 12.6%, and matriculants who were Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin rose by 15.4%.

“We are very encouraged by the growing number of women enrolling in U.S. medical schools,” said Darrell G. Kirch, MD, AAMC president and CEO. “This year’s matriculating class demonstrates that medicine is an increasingly attractive career for women and that medical schools are creating an inclusive environment. While we have much more work to do to attain broader diversity among our students, faculty, and leadership, this is a notable milestone.”

Additionally, an AAMC annual survey of matriculating medical students 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% of new medical students indicated plans to eventually work in an underserved area.

However, Kirch cautioned, “While expanding medical school enrollment is a very positive trend, it alone will not lead to an increase in the supply of practicing physicians to address the coming doctor shortage. For that to happen, Congress must lift the cap on federal support for medical residency positions it enacted 20 years ago. Bipartisan legislation to increase federal support for residency training has been introduced in both the House and Senate. Given our growing and aging population, the AAMC urges Congress to pass this legislation so that future patients will have access to the care they’ll need.”

The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association dedicated to transforming health care through innovative medical education, cutting-edge patient care, and groundbreaking medical research. Its members are all 154 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and more than 80 academic societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC serves the leaders of America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals and their more than 173,000 full-time faculty members, 89,000 medical students, 129,000 resident physicians, and more than 60,000 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in the biomedical sciences.

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