More minority students enrolled as first-year medical students in 2010, with Hispanic male medical students especially increasing their numbers, according to new data released by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The number of black/African American and American Indian first-year medical students also grew this year, and every U.S. region saw increases in medical school enrollment diversity, said AAMC President and CEO Dr. Darrell Kirch.
“The bottom line is, we see more minority students pursuing a career in medicine,” Dr. Kirch said in a telephone press briefing to announce the findings.
Improved diversity will help communities meet their health needs, especially with the increased need for physicians triggered by the Affordable Care Act, he said.
“You don't improve the health of a community without having a workforce that reflects the diversity of that community,” Dr. Kirch said, adding that it's not enough for health care reform to provide insurance if there aren't enough physicians. “An insurance card can't take care of you – you need to have a physician to do that.”
Hispanic men increased their enrollment in medical school by 17%, while enrollment by Hispanic women grew by 1.6% over 2009, according to the AAMC report. Total Hispanic enrollment rose by 9%. First-year Hispanic enrollees in U.S. medical schools totaled 1,539 in 2010, compared with 1,412 in 2009, according to AAMC.
Black/African American enrollment, meanwhile, grew by 2.9% over 2009. A total of 1,350 black/African American students enrolled in medical school as first-year students in 2010, compared with 1,312 students in 2009.
American Indian enrollment remained small, with just 191 first-year students in 2010, according to AAMC. However, that represented a 25% increase over last year's enrollment of 153 students, AAMC said.
Asian students also saw gains, with enrollment increasing 2.4% in 2010 to 4,214 from 4,114 in 2009, according to the AAMC report.
Overall, the level of applicants to U.S. medical schools has remained steady for at least the past 4 years, although the total number of first-time applications increased by 2.5% in 2010, said Dr. Kirch.
“Medical school remains a very compelling career choice,” he said. About 42,000 potential students, including 31,063 first-time applicants, competed for about 18,000 openings, he said.
About 53% of applicants were male and 47% were female; men also outnumbered women first-year enrollees by 53% to 47%, the report showed.
One new medical school – the Virginia Tech Carilion Medical School – accepted its first class this year, and two more are in line to accept their first classes next year, Dr. Kirch said. Another seven medical schools are in the accreditation process, he said.
“This effort to expand medical school enrollment will enable us to add 7,000 more annual graduates,” he said, adding, “we're not focused solely on new schools. We're also focused on [increasing enrollment at] existing schools.”
But increased medical school enrollment won't help the looming shortage of physicians unless the number of residency slots also increases, Dr. Kirch warned. AAMC advocates about a 15% increase in the number of residency slots, he said.