Medical schools are becoming more diverse

Women comprised more than half of applicants and enrollees in 2018, new AAMC data reveal.
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The diversity of medical schools continues to improve, with the numbers of female, black or African American students, and American Indian or Alaska Native applicants and enrollees increasing, according to 2018 data released by the AAMC.

For the first time since 2004, more women than men applied to U.S. medical schools, and for the second year a row, more women than men enrolled, the data show. Equally noteworthy, the number of black or African American men who applied to and enrolled in medical school also rose by 4% and 4.6%, respectively, after years of minimal growth or declines. 

“This year’s significant gains in the number of women and black males entering medicine is excellent news,” said Darrell G. Kirch, MD, AAMC president and CEO. “Medical schools have been working hard to increase the diversity of tomorrow’s doctors. While there is still much more work to do, we are very encouraged by this year’s progress.”

Here are some of the key findings from the report:

  • Women are in the majority. Women comprised 50.9% of all applicants this year. For the second year in a row, women were also the majority of new enrollees to medical school — up to 51.6% from 50.7% in 2017. 
  • The data show small, yet steady increases in racial and ethnic minority applicants and enrollees. Medical school applicants are also becoming more racially and ethnically diverse. The number of applicants reporting as black or African American alone or in combination with another race or ethnicity increased 4.0% from 2017 to 2018, to 5,164, and the number of enrollees rose by 4.6% to 1,856. Applicants reporting as American Indian or Alaska Native alone or in combination with another race or ethnicity rose by 10% to 559 and matriculants increased by 6.3%, to 218. “The AAMC reports, Altering the Course: Black Males in Medicine and the most recent Reshaping the Journey: American Indians in Medicine, remind us, however, that there are persistent, historical downward trends that require continued work to sustain and grow these recent gains,” said David Acosta, MD, AAMC chief diversity and inclusion officer. 
  • High academic performance remains consistent. The enrollees have impressive academic credentials, as they have in years past. The average undergraduate GPA of enrollees was 3.72 and the average MCAT score was 511. Many students have prior research experience as well — about 86% of enrollees who applied through the AAMC’s central application service, AMCAS. This year’s enrollees also prioritize volunteer efforts; entering students cumulatively performed more than 12.5 million hours of community service. 
  • More medical schools lead to more enrollees. Since 2002, the number of medical school applicants has increased by 57%, and the number of enrollees has grown by more than 31%, due to expanded class sizes and the opening of new medical schools. More than 2,000 new students are enrolled at one of the 26 medical schools that have opened since 2007, representing nearly 10% of all matriculants nationally.

Despite these positive developments, there is still a “residency bottleneck” that needs to be addressed to reduce the coming physician shortage, Kirch said. 

“Medical schools have expanded their enrollment to educate the additional physicians our nation needs to care for a growing and aging population as well as address health crises, such as the opioid epidemic,” Kirch said. “But we will not sufficiently increase the overall supply of physicians in the United States without creating more residency slots. It is more important than ever for Congress to lift the 1997 cap on federal support for residency positions to ensure that all patients have access to the care they need.” 

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