Med school ap­pli­ca­tions peak

But fund­ing short­falls could cut res­i­dency posts

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK IN HEALTHCARE - Ashok Selvam

The news that med­i­cal schools fielded more first-time ap­pli­ca­tions than ever in 2011 should be a pos­i­tive sign, given that of­fi­cials at the As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­i­can Med­i­cal Col­leges had fore­cast a physi­cian short­age in the next decade.

The AAMC re­leased its an­nual numbers track­ing med­i­cal school ap­pli­ca­tions and en­roll­ment last week. The data showed first-year ap­pli­cants rose 2.6% in 2011 to a record-break­ing 32,654, com­pared with 31,832 in 2010. To­tal ap­pli­ca­tions in­creased by 1,178 in 2011. That’s a 2.8% in­crease, ris­ing from 42,741 to 43,919.

How­ever, Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, the AAMC pres­i­dent and CEO, tem­pered any en­thu­si­asm over the find­ings on a con­fer­ence call with re­porters. He said fed­eral cuts, in­clud­ing those to Medi­care, could force hos­pi­tals to cut res­i­dency posts and would pre­vent them from adding any new ones. There may not be enough res­i­den­cies for stu­dents, es­pe­cially with 1 in 3 doc­tors re­tir­ing, Kirch said.

“The thing that de­ter­mines the num­ber of physi­cians—fully trained physi­cians—we have is res­i­dency train­ing,” he said. “We need to con­tinue—and in our view to grow—the sup­port that Medi­care pro­vides for res­i­dency train­ing so that we can en­sure that these stu­dents com­ing in to­day will ac­tu­ally be able to com­plete their train­ing. That’s go­ing to be a key fac­tor in the qual­ity of the health­care we all re­ceive in the years to come.”

Con­cern over train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties re­mains de­spite new med­i­cal schools that are open­ing or that have opened, in­clud­ing Oak­land Univer­sity in Rochester, Mich.; Cooper Med­i­cal School of Rowan Univer­sity in Cam­den, N.J.; and the Univer­sity of South Carolina at Greenville.

Kirch said the new schools will al­low for 7,000 more grad­u­ates each year within a decade com­pared with 2002.

The numbers also showed more mi­nori­ties were ap­ply­ing with two ex­cep­tions: Amer­i­can In­dian and Alaskan na­tives. Ap­pli­ca­tions from that group dipped 8.7%. Ap­pli­ca­tions from the Na­tive Hawaiian and other Pa­cific Is­lan­ders cat­e­gory fell by 16%.

The 379 Amer­i­can In­dian ap­pli­cants rep­re­sent less than 1% of the to­tal pool for 2011. The drop in Amer­i­can In­dian ap­pli­ca­tions, down from 415 in 2010, failed to sur­prise Mar­garet Knight, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­i­can In­dian Physi­cians in Ok­la­homa City. Knight is a mem­ber of the Pue­blo of La­guna, an Amer­i­can In­dian tribe based in New Mex­ico: “The kids are not aware of the po­ten­tial to be­come physi­cians or have a ca­reer in health­care.”

A lack of govern­ment fund­ing has also hurt, Knight said. The fed­eral govern­ment pro­vides zero fund­ing for pro­grams to re­cruit fu­ture Amer­i­can In­dian doc­tors, she said.

Kirch high­lighted a 5.7% in­crease in ap­pli­ca­tions from Lati­nos, from 3,271 to 3,459. Ac­cord­ing to the AAMC, ap­pli­ca­tions from Lati­nos have in­creased by 22.9% since 2004.

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