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AAMC Data Show Women Students Are The Majority Among Entrants to 40 Medical Schools

Total Applicants to U.S. medical schools drop again

Washington, D.C., October 26, 1999Women medical students now account for 50 percent or more of the first-year classes at 40 U.S. medical schools, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reported today during the AAMC's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. In 1990, only 10 out of the 125 medical schools reported classes in which women students either equaled or outnumbered their male counterparts.

"The AAMC continues to be encouraged by the number of women choosing careers in medicine. Gender parity in medicine enriches the educational experience, increases the breadth of future scientific inquiry and ultimately, benefits the practice of medicine," said AAMC President Jordan J. Cohen, M.D.

In 1999, the number of women entering medical school increased 3.5 percent to 7,412. This figure represents 46 percent of first-year medical students nationwide. Women were accepted at a rate of 46 percent, slightly higher than the acceptance rate for men of 45 percent. Women also entered medical school at a slightly higher rate than men, 43 percent and 42 percent, respectively.

Overall, the applicant pool for U.S. medical schools declined for the third straight year to 38,534, a drop of 6 percent. In 1996, the number of applicants to medical school reached an all-time high of nearly 47,000. Despite the fluctuations in the number of applicants, the number of matriculating first-year medical students has remained roughly the same over the past 20 years. In 1999, 16,221 individuals entered medical school.

The AAMC believes that several factors are contributing to the decline in medical school applicants. They include: the strong economy and the increasing variety of exciting and intellectually challenging professional opportunities outside "traditional" career choices; the natural ebb and flow of interest in professional schools in general; the perceived loss of physician autonomy due to recent changes in the health care marketplace; the concern over the high levels of educational debt typically required to complete medical training; and the continued damaging effect of anti-affirmative action efforts.

In 1999, the percentage of underrepresented minority applicants fell almost 7 percent to 4,176. The number of total applicants and applicants from underrepresented minority groups represent the lowest figures since 1992.

"It is important to keep in mind that even though the applicant pool has declined somewhat from its all-time high in 1996, medical schools still receive almost 2 1/2 times the number of applicants for the available openings," said Dr. Cohen. "Medical schools continue to attract the best and brightest students because of the exciting new advances in the understanding of disease, the challenges of an evolving health care delivery system, and most of all, the chance to make a difference in the lives of people. That is, and always has been, the principle reason for choosing a career in medicine."

Most striking in the AAMC's 1999 medical school data are the decline in males applying to medical school and the relative dearth of underrepresented minority males, black males in particular, entering medical school this year. The AAMC classifies underrepresented minorities as black, Native American, Mexican American/Chicano, and Mainland Puerto Rican.

Overall, the number of males applying to medical school dropped 9.1 percent to 21,098. Breaking out these numbers further, male underrepresented minority applicants declined 14.3 percent (1,624), black males almost 15 percent (974), and white males 9.2 percent (13,476). The number of black males entering medical school dropped almost 16 percent this year to 383, the lowest number in the decade of the 1990s. A similar drop was observed for the entire group of male underrepresented minorities, whose matriculation rate declined 15.2 percent to 705, also the lowest in the decade.

"The drop in male underrepresented minority applicants and matriculants is most disheartening," said Dr. Cohen. "Despite the medical community's efforts to encourage minorities to pursue careers in medicine and the growing need for a diverse physician workforce, the numbers continue to decline. The AAMC and others must redouble their efforts to curtail this downward spiral."


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 comprise all 147 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 nearly 160,000 faculty members, 83,000 medical students, and 115,000 resident physicians. Additional information about the AAMC and its member medical schools and teaching hospitals is available at


Lesley Ward
Senior Media Relations Specialist
Telephone: 202-828-0655