Dec. 16, 2019 -- For the first time, this year, more women than men are enrolled as U.S. medical students, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
This progress builds on a milestone reached in 2017, when women made up the majority of first-year medical students for the first time.
Recent years have seen an increase in the number of female medical students -- from 46.9% in 2015 to 49.5% in 2018. In 2019, women make up 50.5% of all medical school students, the association says.
"The steady gains in the medical school enrollment of women are a very positive trend, and we are delighted to see this progress," David Skorton, MD, president and chief executive officer of the association, says in a news release.
According to the association, the number of applicants to U.S. medical schools rose by 1.1% from 2018 to 2019, to a record 53,371, and the number of new enrollees grew by 1.1%, to 21,869. Across applicants and new enrollees, the number of women increased, while the number of men declined.
As in previous years, medical school enrollees in 2019 have strong academic credentials, with an average undergraduate grade point average of 3.78. They range in age from 15 to 53, and 131 are military veterans. This year's entering class also has a strong commitment to service, in all doing more than 14 million community service hours.
Diversity Remains A Challenge
U.S. medical schools continue to make "modest" gains in attracting and enrolling more racially and ethnically diverse classes, the Association of American Medical Colleges says, although these groups remain underrepresented in the overall doctor workforce.
Applicants who identify as Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin increased 5.1% to 5,858, and new enrollees from this group grew 6.3% to 2,466.
The number of black or African American applicants rose 0.6% to 5,193, and new students increased by 3.2% to 1,916. Among black or African American men, applicants and new enrollees increased 0.5%, and the total enrollment of black or African American men rose 3.7% to 3,189.
American Indian or Alaska Native applicants grew by 4.8% to 586, and new students rose 5.5% to 230.
Skorton says the "modest increases in enrollment among underrepresented groups are simply not enough. We cannot accept this as the status quo and must do more to educate and train a more diverse physician workforce to care for a more diverse America."
Continued growth in the number of applicants to U.S. medical schools shows that interest in a career in medicine remains high, the association says, which is "crucial," given the projected shortage of up to 122,000 doctors by 2030.
To address the projected shortage, medical schools have expanded class sizes and opened 20 new schools in the past decade. The total number of enrolled medical students has grown by 33% since 2002, the organization says.
But increasing the number of federally funded residency training positions will be required to boost the overall supply of doctors in the United States. The Association of American Medical Colleges supports legislation that would add 15,000 residency slots over 5 years to ensure that all patients have access to the care they need.