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Medical school enrollment on the rise

October 24, 2011 | 11:39 am

    PICTURE DOCTOR PATIENT, 10-24-11

For those worried about the shortage of doctors in the U.S. healthcare system, here is a bit of good news: The number of students enrolling in medical schools has reached its highest level in more than a decade.

More than 19,200 people entered their first year of medical school this year, a 3% increase over 2010, according to new data from the nonprofit Assn. of American Medical Colleges.

The number of new medical students has been growing steadily since 2001, when medical schools reported 16,365 first-year students.

Medical schools also are attracting more applicants. The association said 43,919 students applied for admission this year, the largest number in a decade.

The figures show that medicine remains an attractive choice for college graduates in search of fulfilling careers, according to Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, the association’s president.

The potential for large paychecks is not a significant driver of the growing enrollment, Kirch said, noting that medical students can expect to accumulate an estimated $161,000 in debt on average by the time they finish school.

"Today’s college undergrads are very service-oriented," he said. "They are drawn to medicine because they like the notion of meaningful work."

The numbers of applicants and new students from most major racial and ethnic groups increased in 2011, although some of the gains were modest, the association said.

For example, 1,375 African Americans enrolled for the first year of medical school this year, up from 1,350 in 2010. Similarly, 1,633 Latino students entered medical school in 2011, up from 1,539 in 2010.

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— Duke Helfand

Photo: Dr. Arturo Pelayo talks with patient Juvanna Fleming at Saint Francis Medical Center in Lynwood. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

 

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