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AAMC Calls for 30 Percent Increase in Medical School Enrollment

Washington, D.C., June 19, 2006—Citing growing evidence of a national physician shortage, the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) today recommended that enrollment in U.S. medical schools be increased 30 percent by 2015. This expansion would result in an additional 5,000 new M.D. students annually and should be accomplished by boosting enrollment at existing schools, as well as by creating new allopathic medical schools.

"A shortage of U.S. doctors would have a profound impact on all Americans by affecting access to quality health care, especially for the underserved who already encounter substantial barriers when seeking care," said AAMC President Jordan J. Cohen, M.D. "Based on current evidence, we believe this recommended increase will help prevent a future shortfall and meet the health needs of our nation."

In February 2005, the AAMC recommended a 15 percent increase in U.S. medical school enrollment. Subsequent analysis of key factors that affect physician supply and demand by the AAMC's Center for Workforce Studies found that a 30 percent increase was warranted. These factors include:

  1. U.S. population increases of 25 million people each decade;
  2. a doubling in the number of people over 65 between 2000 and 2030;
  3. Americans' rising expectations for, and the increasing availability of, effective health care services that will keep people healthy and active as they grow older;
  4. an aging physician workforce - one of every three active doctors is over age 55 and likely to retire by 2020; and
  5. a new generation of physicians who may choose to work somewhat less than their predecessors.

The AAMC's analysis of the data concluded that if these trends continue, the number of doctors will peak by about 2020 and then drop just as the Baby Boomers begin to reach age 75.

"Given the extensive time it takes to educate and train tomorrow's doctors, efforts to increase enrollment must get underway as soon as possible to ensure that the health care needs of the nation in 2015 and beyond are met," Cohen said.

To accommodate additional U.S. M.D. graduates in teaching hospital residency training programs, the AAMC policy continues to call for the removal of the cap on the number of residency positions funded by Medicare. "Increased public support of graduate medical education is essential to guarantee a sufficient supply of doctors to care for the growing number of elderly," Cohen said.

Other key recommendations in the new AAMC workforce policy include:

  • studying the geographic distribution of U.S. physicians to help identify strategies to address the paucity of physicians in many areas;
  • increasing the National Health Service Corps awards by at least 1,500 per year to help meet the need for physicians who care for underserved populations and address rising medical student indebtedness;
  • examining ways to develop a formal, voluntary process for assessing medical schools outside the U.S. that primarily enroll Americans, and a mechanism that could oversee the U.S. clinical training of medical students enrolled in foreign medical schools; and
  • actively assisting medical education and training in other countries, especially those in less developed countries.

The association recognizes that improvements in the efficiency of health care delivery and/or advances in medicine may lower the overall number of doctors that the U.S. is projected to need in the future. The current recommendations and ongoing monitoring and analysis by the AAMC Center for Workforce Studies will allow the nation to respond to changing needs. The center will provide updated forecasts every two years or so. If the best available data indicate any changes in the U.S. physician supply, the AAMC will reassess its current position.

A copy of the AAMC's revised physician workforce position can be found at: www.aamc.org/workforce

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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 www.aamc.org.

AAMC Statement on the Physician Workforce