More residency placements will be needed as medical school enrollments rise, perhaps by 30 percent through 2016

Aimed at addressing expected physician shortages, enrollment at U.S. medical schools is on target to increase by 30 percent by 2016, the Medical School Enrollment Survey has found.

But even if enrollment rises through expansion of medical schools and construction of new ones, “This won’t amount to a single new doctor in practice without an expansion of residency positions,” said Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

First-year medical school enrollment is expected to reach 21,376 in 2016-17, a 29.6 percent increase over enrollment in 2002-03. Nearly 60 percent of the growth will happen in the 125 medical schools that were accredited in 2002; 25 percent will happen in schools accredited since then, and 17 percent will come from schools that are applicant or candidate schools.

The United States is facing a shortfall of more than 90,000 primary care and specialty doctors by 2020, the AAMC estimates. With medical schools stepping up, what’s key is “an increase in federal funding to expand the number of residency training positions — which prepare new doctors for independent practice,” research-reporting service Newswise reports.

“Otherwise it may become more difficult for medical students to complete their training and for patients to get the care they need — as our population continues to grow and age, more doctors retire, and 32 million Americans enter the health care system as a result of the Affordable Care Act,” Kirch said. (Read more)

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