Med School Enrollment Up 30% by 2017. Will It Help?

May 7, 2013

New data from the Association of American Medical Colleges shows med school enrollment is on track to reach a 30% increase by 2017. That's over enrollment numbers in 2002.

Rhode Island's own Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University is no exception, with record enrollment numbers.

What's most interesting about the data is that a good number of the new med school slots are in newly accredited or in-the-process-of-becoming accredited medical schools. There's one in our own backyard that fits that bill, Quinnipiac.

But an AAMC survey of med school deans showed that many fear the increased number of med school graduates won't necessarily translate into more doctors - or an easing of the growing doctor shortage. That's because Congress still hasn't lifted a cap it placed on the number of residency program slots allowed at any one time. Residency is the next step after medical school, and without enough slots for med school graduates, well, you get the picture.

So, if we're facing a shortage of, by some estimates, 30,000 physicians (60,000+ by other estimates), what gives? Lots of people are studying the physician workforce issue, as it's known, right now. Plus, some legislative attempts have been made to lift the cap. Nothing's succeeded so far, but the latest effort is the "Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act," or Senate bill 577, which was referred to the Senate Finance Committee in March. It would enable the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (which fund residency programs at teaching hospitals) to add 3000 new residency slots each year from 2015 - 2019.