Med schools see record number of applicants

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The total number of first-time applicants this year was 32,654, a 2.6 percent increase over last year. Actual first-year enrollment is also up: Medical schools accepted 19,230 applicants in 2011, up 3 percent since 2010.

Medical schools are also training a more diverse student body: Hispanic/Latino enrollment was up 6.1 percent, AAMC said, while black enrollment was up 1.9 percent and Asian enrollees increased by 3.3 percent.

Driving the increase in enrollment, the AAMC said, is medical school expansion. Eleven medical schools increased their class sizes more than 10 percent in 2011, while three new schools — in Florida, Michigan and New York — opened their doors.

The AAMC warned, however, that Congress risks undermining that growth if it fails to reauthorize federal funding for residency slots. The failed deficit-cutting supercommittee at one point was rumored to be considering cuts of as much as 60 percent to Medicare payments for Graduate Medical Education.

"If Congress cuts the funding for doctor training, we may not have enough residency training positions to accommodate this growing number of medical school graduates," Kirch said. "We need to continue the support that Medicare provides for residency training, so we can ensure that these students coming in today will actually be able to complete their training. That will be a key factor in the quality of healthcare we all receive in the years to come."