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Record number of medical students but limits on future training, group says

Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 9:14 PM
Last updated Friday, Oct. 25, 2013 1:32 AM
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A record number of first-year students enrolled in medical school this year as officials work to meet a looming shortage of physicians, the group that represents U.S. medical schools announced Thursday. But without an increase on residency slots that were capped 16 years ago, many might not complete the training needed to become physicians, said Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, the president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges and the former senior vice president for clinical activities and dean at Medical College of Georgia.

While he touts the need for more diversity among budding physicians, Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University actually doubled the numbers of blacks who enrolled in medical school this year.

The association reported that the number of first-year medical school students topped 20,000 for the first time this year at 20,055, with about half of the 538 increase due to four new medical schools enrolling their first classes, Kirch said.

The number of applicants and new applicants also were at record highs. The AAMC had called for medical schools in 2006 to increase enrollment by 30 percent and they are now on pace to reach that goal by 2017, Kirch said.

“This is extremely important to us because we face some serious physician shortages,” he said. “Obviously this is the entry point of the people who can help us with those shortages.”

The group estimated there will be a shortage of 90,000 physicians by 2020. But while medical school enrollment is going up, the number of residencies students need to complete their training after graduation have been capped since 1997 and Congress has refused to raise it, Kirch said. Already this year, there were “several hundred” graduates who could not secure a first-year residency through the process, Kirch said.

“They want to go into medicine, they want to take care of patients and they were not able to find a residency slot to allow them to do that,” he said. AAMC officials estimate it would cost Medicare about $1 billion a year to add 4,000 more slots.

While numbers are up, there is still a great need to increase the diversity of those applicants, Kirch said. The association supports outreach programs to undergraduates as the way to do that, as opposed to quotas or setting numerical targets, he said.

“What we’re advocating is a thorough system of looking at applicants as a whole and also efforts to make the opportunities known to people who might otherwise have not seen them,” Kirch said. “We think that’s the best way to increase diversity.”

Those efforts are apparently paying off for black first-year students at MCG, which went from nine last year to 27 this year, a three-fold increase among the 230 enrolled.

“This is very important of course because of the diversity of Georgia as a state,” said Peter Buckley, the MCG dean.

Many schools like MCG are also benefitting from regional campuses that increase their exposure elsewhere in the state, Kirch said. Of the 141 U.S. medical schools, at least 111 have a regional campus and many are in more rural and underserved areas of those states, he said.

“It’s just another tool to give opportunities to these incredibly interested and talented and diverse applicants,” Kirch said. MCG officials have credited big increases in applications the last two cycles in part to clinical campuses in Albany and Savannah. The school will also benefit next year from the opening of the J. Harold Harrison, MD, Education Commons Building and the awarding of the first Harrison Scholars, partial- and full-ride scholarships funded by a historic $66 million gift from the late Dr. Harrison to Medical College of Georgia Foundation, Buckley said.

“That’s going to make us even more competitive,” he said.

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fedex227 10/24/13 - 11:21 pm
Hey House Republicans, looking for a bill to pass?

" ...while medical school enrollment is going up, the number of residencies students need to complete their training after graduation has been capped since 1997 and Congress has refused to raise it..."

Or you could just pass another meaningless bill that tries to defund the ACA.

Riverman1 10/25/13 - 04:37 am
What's The Correlation?

I don't get the correlation between the lack of residency slots and having a diverse medical student population?

ymnbde 10/25/13 - 07:29 am
bureaucracy, quotas, and tumors

just don't seem to be a good mix
perhaps the chronicle could do a study
on how many doctors each local school has created
in the last ten years?
and expose the institutional racism that is
public education?
school choice... the rich have it
the parents willing to sacrifice for their children
have it
why not poor children?
when democrats love poor black children more than they love
big government
there will be more black doctors
it's just that simple
and besides, does this article admit
that increasing the ratio between
doctors and patients
does cause harm?
why, yes, i do believe it does
does O'care increase the ratio between doctors and patients?
why, yes, i do believe it does

CryoCyberTronics 10/25/13 - 08:40 am
Black Enrollment?

Nothing about tne Athens Med Schools at The University of Georgia. Maybe it's the new State if Georgia Flagship Med School?

Fiat_Lux 10/25/13 - 10:18 am
Some of these comments show an abyss of stupid,

matched only by the federal cap on residency slots.

Of course, the intent is to limit the number of highly paid medics with terminal degrees (ie, an MD or DO) and relegate primary care to nurse practitioners and physician assistants, both Masters level degrees that don't command such high salaries--usually half or less than what doctors are paid. The care is also no higher than that level as well.

California is something of a bellwether for this kind of thing, and their state legislature recently pass a ruling that allows non-physicians to perform abortions. That's a genuine surgical procedure,but what the heck. It's only a woman and her products of conception after all.

bright idea
bright idea 10/25/13 - 10:56 am

So this article is telling me that residencies are paid for by Medicare. I didn't know that and have never considered it. Thanks AC for that tidbit.

teaparty 10/25/13 - 11:11 am
There will be a shortage of

There will be a shortage of doctors when that happens the government will start sponsoring them and to be PC they will not pick the smartest and the best. Dr. Ben Carson has it right.

Tom Corwin
Tom Corwin 10/25/13 - 02:24 pm
Bright Idea

Thanks. Actually, Medicare sets the number of slots it will pay for (the cap Dr. Kirch was talking about) and it has two different systems of payments but we don't need to get into that. The cost of residencies is about $15.2 billion and Medicare pays about $3.2 billion, with the institutions themselves paying the bulk of the difference. It is not exactly a windfall for the teaching hospitals to get more slots but they are needed for training new doctors.

soldout 10/25/13 - 03:27 pm
energy medicine will fill in the gap

Energy medicine is growing very fast and eliminates the need for many doctors. When you are able; for many commen aliments, to determine the disease, do the treatment and have the person feeling better in five minutes without them even being present you have found a better way. Dr. Oz says is the fastest growing treatment today. No drugs, no nothing except fixing the electrical system that runs the immune system. The book "Cross Currents" by Doctor Becker explains how it works but doesn't tell how to do it.

Fiat_Lux 10/25/13 - 04:30 pm
Well, what good is it then?

It's just another way for the haves to make a pile of money exploiting the misery of the have-nots.

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