U.S. medical schools increase 2008 enrollment to meet physician demand

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U.S. medical schools continue to expand their enrollment to meet the increasing demand for physicians, according to data released Tuesday by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

First-year enrollment at U.S. medical schools this year increased nearly 2 percent from 2007, to more than 18,000 students—the highest enrollment in history.

In a boon to the medical education efforts to increase diversity in medicine, the number of Latino first-year enrollees rose by more than 10 percent this year; Latinos represent 7.9 percent of the 2008-09 entering medical school class. The number of Native American first-year enrollees increased by more than 5 percent, and the number of African American first-year students remained nearly the same as in 2007. Overall, the percentage of women first-year enrollees held steady again this year at about 48 percent.

After a five-year increase in applicants to medical schools, the number of applicants leveled off this year at more than 42,200. While the overall applicant pool is one of the largest in more than a decade, the number of first-time applicants decreased by 3 percent. On average, there were more than two applicants for every available opening at a medical school.

According to AAMC, many medical schools are beginning to take a holistic approach to reviewing applicants, evaluating them on the basis of their academic and personal achievements and within the context of the opportunities and challenges each has encountered. There was an increase in the number of applicants who had community service experience and medical research experience on their premedical resumes.

The applicants to medical school this year were among the most academically qualified in history, according to AAMC; data show an increase in the average undergraduate grade point average (to 3.5) and average MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) scores (to 28.1).