More Women Than Men Enrolled in US Med Schools for First Time

Megan Brooks

December 19, 2017

For the first time, the number of women enrolling in US medical schools has topped the number of men, according to new data just released by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

"We are very encouraged by the growing number of women enrolling in US medical schools," AAMC President and Chief Executive Officer Darrell G. Kirch, MD, said in a news release. "This year's matriculating class demonstrates that medicine is an increasingly attractive career for women and that medical schools are creating an inclusive environment. While we have much more work to do to attain broader diversity among our students, faculty, and leadership, this is a notable milestone," said Dr Kirch.

Women made up 50.7% of the 21,338 new enrollees in 2017 compared with 49.8% in 2016.

"Female matriculants increased by 3.2% this year, while male matriculants declined by 0.3%. Since 2015, the number of female matriculants has grown by 9.6%, while the number of male matriculants has declined by 2.3%," the AAMC said in the news release.

Overall, in 2017, the number of new students in US medical schools is up 1.5%; total enrollment now stands at 89,904 students.

Overall Decline

However, the number of applicants to medical schools declined by 2.6% from 2016. "Although this is the largest decrease in 15 years, it is not the first; previous declines occurred in 2002 and 2008," the AAMC noted.

In 2017, the number of female applicants declined by 0.7%, whereas male applicants fell 4.4%. "Since 2015, the number of women applying to medical school has increased by 4.0%, while the number of male applicants has declined 6.7%," the AAMC said.

Although most new enrollees this year were women, men remained a slight majority (50.4%) of applicants, according to the AAMC.

In line with prior years, the academic credentials and experience of medical school applicants in 2017 remain "very strong," the AAMC said, with 77% having done volunteer community service in a medical or clinical setting and 77% having already had research experience. The average undergraduate grade point average of applicants this year increased slightly, to 3.56, and the median medical college admission test score was 505.

The AAMC notes that despite this year's decline in medical school applicants, since 2002, the overall number of medical school applicants has increased more than 50%, and the number of matriculants has grown by nearly 30% during the last 15 years.

"While expanding medical school enrollment is a very positive trend, it alone will not lead to an increase in the supply of practicing physicians to address the coming doctor shortage," Dr Kirch cautioned in the release.

"For that to happen, Congress must lift the cap on federal support for medical residency positions it enacted 20 years ago. Bipartisan legislation to increase federal support for residency training has been introduced in both the House and Senate. Given our growing and aging population, the AAMC urges Congress to pass this legislation so that future patients will have access to the care they'll need," said Dr Kirch.

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