The numbers are in. According to new data released Thursday by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), enrollment at medical schools across the nation has increased 25 percent since 2002.
The dramatic incline in the number of enrollees—20,630 in 2015—signals an all-time high for medical colleges in the U.S. In addition, the total number of applicants to medical school rose by 6.2 percent to 52,550, exactly double the percentage increase from the previous year, according to AAMC officials. The number of first-time applicants—an important indicator of interest in medicine—increased by 4.8 percent to 38,460.
Fifty-two percent of those starting medical school in 2015 were men and 48 percent were women. About 1,000 more men than women applied to medical school in 2015 and about 900 more men than women enrolled.
“The nation’s medical schools are creating innovative education and training programs to prepare tomorrow’s doctors to meet the challenges of the changing health care environment,” said Darrell G. Kirch, the president and CEO of the AAMC. “This dynamic landscape is leading to a record number of students applying to and enrolling in medical school.”
Officials concede that much work still needs to be done among black males. In August, AAMC released data that indicated that the number of black males applying to and attending medical school in this country was at the lowest that it has ever been since 1978.
AAMC will use its annual medical-career awareness workshops and recruitment fair in Baltimore in early November to begin targeting African American males in high school and college. Organizers said that the event is intended to help increase the pipeline of minority students entering the field of medicine and noted that participants will have the opportunity to meet and interact with representatives from more than 75 U.S. medical schools and other health-professions schools.
Overall, the number of newly enrolled African American medical-school students rose 1.1 percent to 1,412 in 2014, while the number of applicants increased by 3.2 percent to a total of 3,990. According to AAMC officials, the number of Hispanic enrollees increased by 1.8 percent to 1,859 in 2014, while the number of applicants increased by 9.7 percent to 4,386.
Several years ago, two black doctors—Kameron Matthews and Alden Landry—launched Tour for Diversity in Medicine, a grassroots organization that puts 15 to 20 top minority doctors on a bus and makes a trek across the country to talk to high-school and college students about medical school and the medical profession. They also receive mentorship and tips on how to study for the MCAT.
The tour kicked off this week and includes stops at institutions like Portland State University and the University of Washington. Since 2011, the doctors have engaged with more than 2,000 students.
“It is very encouraging to see consistent increases in the number and diversity of students in medical school,” said Kirch in an interview with reporters. “We are hopeful that this becomes a long-term trend as medical schools continue working in their communities to diversify the applicant pool through pipeline programs, outreach efforts, and holistic review initiatives.”
This story is part of our Next America: Workforce project, which is supported by a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.