Due to the ultra-low acceptance rates at best ranked establishments in the USA Best medical schools rankings, some of which accept less than 4% of applicants, many aspiring doctors wonder why it is so difficult to get into medical school. This is particularly troubling, given the deluge of articles on physician shortages in rural communities and low-income urban neighborhoods in the United States, and the ongoing public debate over the dire shortage of physicians in certain medical fields, such as first aid and psychiatry.

Dr. Robert Hasty, founding dean and academic director of Idaho College of Osteopathic Medicine, explains that one of the main reasons it’s so difficult to get into medical school is because there has been interest growth for careers in healthcare, which has led to an increase in the number of applications to medical schools.

Hasty says the demand for medical education is “near an all-time high,” so the typical pre-medical student should expect to face stiff competition. “People really want to be doctors, and now more than ever,” he says. “I would say that is especially true for the millennials. And I can tell you that here at (our school) we hear from high quality applicants every day… and these are people with MCAT scores and very high GPAs, whether it’s their second, third, or even fourth year of medical school application, and years ago they would’ve been accepted the first time, but the demand is just amazing. “

A growing number of applicants

Statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges reveal that there were over 10,000 more applicants seeking admission to an American medical school in the 2018-2019 school year than there had been 10 years previously, an increase of ‘about 25% over the 10-year period.

Hasty says young people are especially eager to find work that allows them to have a positive impact on society, and the emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math in contemporary American schools has increased. the number of people who wish to become doctors.

“The current millennials, their desire to serve and give back is truly amazing,” he says, adding that Gen Z, who are just starting to apply to medical school, are also showing a strong interest in public service. .

Hasty also suggests that U.S. high schools and colleges are more successful at engaging students in science classes than in the past, leading to increased interest.

Is there a shortage of medical schools in the United States?

Hasty argues that the new American medical schools are not opening quickly enough to account for the increased demand in the United States for medical education, and that the new schools that are opening are not necessarily located in places with a shortage of physicians. is serious, such as rural areas.

Dr. Richard Olds, president of St. George’s University in the Caribbean who was previously the founding dean of the University of California – Riverside School of Medicine, states that few medical schools opened between the late 1970s and early 2000s, and that very little expansion of medical schools occurred during this period thanks to a market forecast of the inaccurate but widely publicized work projecting a physician surplus. During this time, he said, the need for doctors in the United States was growing rapidly and medical schools were not meeting that need.

“Our country has seen its population grow and age, and this combination is increasing the demand for physicians astronomically,” Olds said. However, as medical school enrollment has not increased significantly for about 30 years, it is difficult for them to increase quickly enough now to catch up with the high and growing level of health care need in the States. United. Still, many medical school administrators and professors concerned about the shortage of physicians and actively trying to address the shortage of primary care providers nationwide, Olds says.

“There will be, for the foreseeable future, far too few places in medical schools for future demand,” said Olds, whose institution is the fourth largest producer of American physicians. St. George’s has more than 9,000 practicing alumni in the United States, according to a 2016 medical census published by the Federation of State Medical Boards, a national coalition of state medical regulatory councils.

Would America’s New Medical Schools Solve America’s Doctor Shortages?

A medical workforce study released in April by the AAMC projects a shortage of 42,600 to 121,300 physicians by 2030.

Enrollment in U.S. medical schools has grown significantly since 2002, with class sizes increasing by about 30% during that time, according to the AAMC. But Jason Farr, senior vice president of recruiting for The Medicus Firm, a Texas-based healthcare provider recruiting company, says the doctor shortage in the United States has multiple unrelated causes. with the number of places in American medical schools. An important factor, he suggests, is the large number of American doctors who have reached or are approaching retirement age. Another factor, he says, is that contemporary physicians are more eager to find a work-life balance than their predecessors of past eras, and many physicians are unwilling to put in the long hours that previous generations of physicians did. .

Farr questions whether increasing the number of medical schools in the United States would solve the problem of the physician shortage, and he cites the residence match results report published this year by the National Resident Matching Program, which showed more residency applicants than residency places. According to Farr, until there is enough places of residence for current graduates, the physician shortage will persist.

Experts say that a scarcity of residences in the United States has created a bottleneck in the supply chain for physicians in the United States, preventing some people who wish to become physicians from achieving their ambitions. This roadblock in the career path of aspiring physicians occurs after they have invested four years in obtaining a medical degree. And experts say this situation will continue unless and until the number of residences in the United States increases.

Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, President and CEO of AAMC, says the underlying problem is the lack of federal funding to support the expansion of residency programs.

Since graduates of medical schools are generally expected to complete a residence Before becoming licensed physicians, Kirch said “there simply wouldn’t be enough physicians to provide the care Americans need” without increased funding for residency programs, which have been frozen since 1997.

Dr Matthew Mintz, Associate Clinical Professor at George Washington University School of Medicine who is also an internal medicine doctor, agrees. Tackling physician shortages in the United States is really in the hands of federal lawmakers, according to Mintz.

“In order to increase the number of practicing clinicians, you need to increase the number of residency slots,” Mintz wrote in an email. However, the residency slots are funded by Medicare. So the only way to increase the number of practicing physicians is to increase Medicare funding. Currently, both sides of the aisle are discussing how to reduce (or at least preserve) Medicare funding. Calls to increase Medicare spending to fund new residential slots are generally met on deaf ears on both sides of the aisle. “

Why are some areas of the United States experiencing an extreme shortage of physicians?

Experts say one of the reasons for the extreme physician shortages in specific geographic areas is the fact that physicians generally prefer to live in affluent metropolitan areas with an abundance of highly educated people like them, as opposed to low income areas. with less educated populations, which are generally the areas most in need of physicians.

Additionally, experts say medical schools tend to be located in large metropolitan areas that have many doctors. Because newly trained physicians often practice near where they attended school or near their hometown, they tend to relocate to areas of the United States where there are already numbers. important to doctors.

Will entering medical school always be difficult?

Experts say medical schools deliberately have a rigorous vetting process designed to ensure anyone they admit is able to take tough medical classes and undergo demanding clinical training. Regardless of the number of applicants competing for places in medical schools, these schools generally have high quality, and they want to identify the best and brightest students.

“Medical schools have set up a lot of hoops for applicants to go through: a prescribed undergraduate program with many prerequisites, the MCAT exam, a complex and multi-part application, travel for interviews, exhaustive interview days and a constant demand for professionalism throughout, “Dr. McGreggor Crowley, admissions counselor at admissions consulting firm IvyWise, wrote in an email.

“These barriers exist for many reasons. First, medical school admissions committees want to establish a mechanism to identify the best applicants in their pool. It can be difficult to differentiate applicants based solely on objective information like A GPA or MCAT score. Second, the process is designed to be intense to ensure that those who pass the milestones are prepared to endure the hardships and hardships of practicing medicine. “