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Medical schools in 2023: Fewer applicants, mixed results in diversity

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More Hispanic students entered medical schools this year, but there was a slight dip in Black first-year students, the Association of American Medical Colleges says.

Medical schools saw some progress in the diversity of first-year students in 2023.

Image credit: AAMC

David Skorton, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, says it's unclear why there was a decline in applicants this year. (Image credit: AAMC)

However, there were some declines as well, according to data released this week by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

This year, there were 52,577 applicants, a 4.7% decline compared to 2022-23, and it’s the second consecutive year medical schools saw a drop in applicants. It’s worth noting that medical schools saw a record number of applicants in the 2021-22 year, possibly driven by people inspired to pursue careers in medicine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even with the drop in applicants, the number of matriculants, or first-year enrollees, rose 1.2% compared to 2023, according to AAMC data.

The number of first-year Hispanic students rose 4.5% this year, while the number of American Indian or Alaska Native matriculants rose 14.7%.

However, there was a dip in the number of Black first-year enrollees. Black students accounted for 10% of all first-year enrollees in 2023-24, down from 10.2%. The number of students who identified as Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander fell 6.9%.

For the fifth consecutive year, women accounted for more than half of applicants and first year students (56.6% and 55.4%, respectively). The number of women first-year students rose by 0.7%. Women represented 54.6% of all medical students.

The number of male first-year enrollees rose 1% in 2023-24, the AAMC said.

David J. Skorton, president and CEO of the AAMC, said the drop in medical school applicants comes amid declines in applications for other health professions.

“While we do not know the exact explanation for the decline in the number of applicants to medical school, it will not deter our continuing efforts to increase the number of diverse applicants and matriculants who will make up the future physician workforce,” Skorton said in a statement. “Evidence shows that a more diverse workforce can improve health outcomes in our communities.”

Healthcare leaders say they’re concerned about efforts to improve diversity in medical schools after the Supreme Court’s ruling in June that prohibits affirmative action in college admissions. The AAMC said in a statement that it was “deeply disappointed” with the ruling.

Some healthcare leaders are also suggesting that medical schools pay more attention to the mental health of students. Many medical students are struggling with their mental health, according to a study by The Physicians Foundation.

Three out of four medical students reported inappropriate feelings of anger and anxiety, while almost half (45%) of medical students say they know a colleague or peer who has considered suicide.

Stefanie Simmons, chief medical officer of the Dr. Lorna Breen Heroes Foundation, suggests medical schools should revise their programs to include more training in dealing with stress, how to cope with witnessing human suffering, and knowing when to seek help from a professional.


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