Women Make Up the Majority of US Med Students for First Time

Megan Brooks

December 11, 2019

This year, for the first time, more women than men are enrolled as US medical students, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

This progress builds on a milestone reached in 2017, when, for the first time, women comprised the majority of first-year medical students, as reported previously by Medscape Medical News.

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 comprise 50.5% of all medical school students, according to the AAMC.

"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, AAMC president and chief executive officer, said in a news release.

According to the AAMC, the number of applicants to US medical schools rose by 1.1% from 2018 to 2019, to a record 53,371, and the number of matriculants (new enrollees) grew by 1.1%, to 21,869. Across applicants and matriculants, 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, cumulatively performing more than 14 million community service hours.

Diversity Remains a Challenge

US medical schools continue to make "modest" gains in attracting and enrolling more racially and ethnically diverse classes, the AAMC said, although these groups remain "underrepresented" in the overall physician workforce.

Applicants who identify as Hispanic, Latino, or of Spanish origin increased 5.1% to 5858 and matriculants from this group grew 6.3% to 2466.

The number of black or African American applicants rose 0.6% to 5193 and matriculants increased by 3.2% to 1916. Among black or African American men, applicants and matriculants increased 0.5% and the total enrollment of black or African American men rose 3.7% to 3189.

American Indian or Alaska Native applicants grew by 4.8% to 586 and matriculants rose 5.5% to 230.

Skorton said that 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 US medical schools shows that interest in a career in medicine remains high, the AAMC said, which is "crucial," given the projected shortage of up to 122,000 physicians by 2030.

To address the projected shortage, medical schools have expanded class sizes, 20 new schools have opened in the past decade, and the total number of enrolled medical students has grown by 33% since 2002, the organization said.

However, increasing the number of federally funded residency training positions will be required to boost the overall supply of physicians in the United States. The AAMC supports legislation that would add 15,000 residency slots over 5 years to ensure that all patients have access to the care they need, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

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