Med School Enrollment Still Roaring, More So at DO Schools

May 25, 2017

First-year enrollment at the nation's 147 allopathic medical schools continues to grow at a healthy clip, but it's not keeping up with the blistering pace set by 33 osteopathic medical schools.

As a result, allopathic schools increasingly compete with their osteopathic counterparts for clinical training sites where their students can master their profession, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which represents allopathic institutions.

Some 21,000 first-year students were enrolled in allopathic medical schools in 2016-2017, which amounts to a 28% increase since 2002-2003, the AAMC reports in an annual survey of deans that it issued today. During that same period, first-year enrollment at osteopathic schools grew 148%, reaching 7369 last year.

Head counts have benefited from the establishment of new schools since 2002-2003 — 22 allopathic and 13 osteopathic.

 

Jostling for Training Sites

Although allopathic and osteopathic medical schools are on separate tracks, their students by and large are introduced to patient care in the same kinds of hospitals and clinics. As osteopathic enrollment continues to outpace allopathic enrollment, jostling for these undergraduate training sites has intensified, according to the AAMC survey. The percentage of allopathic schools that report competing with their DO counterparts for training sites grew from 26% in 2009-2010 to 53% in 2016-2017.

This competition is also heating up with other healthcare professionals such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners, which was reported as a difficulty by 62% of schools in 2016-2017 compared with 24% in 2009-2010. Another 35% of schools last year pointed to competition for training sites with offshore medical schools.

AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch, MD, said in a news release that continuing enrollment gains for his member schools can help prevent an estimated shortage of almost 105,000 physicians by 2030, but only if Congress funds more positions in the nation's residency training programs. The number of these positions is for the most part capped by a 1997 law.

The AAMC supports a bill now in Congress that would pay for an additional 3000 residency slots each year for 5 years.

The full report on the annual AAMC survey is available on the organization website.

Follow Robert Lowes on Twitter @LowesRobert

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