Women, DOs make up greater share of physicians

The total number of licensed physicians has increased by 12 percent since 2010, with women and Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (DOs) making up a greater share of the physician population, according to a report released by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB).

There were 953,695 actively licensed physicians in 2016, the FSMB found, up from just over 850,000 in 2010 and 916,000 in 2014, when the last census was taken. The ratio of physicians to total population has also increased to 295 doctors per 100,000 people, up from 277 per 100,000 six years earlier.

“Many parts of our country are feeling the effects of an increasing physician shortage,” FSMB board chair Gregory Snyder, MD, said in a press release. “The wealth of data that this census provides can play a significant role in understanding the needs of our health care workforce and help to identify areas in which we can innovate and expand access to care.”

MDs still make up the clear majority of physicians. More than 870,000 (or 91.3 percent) doctors held a MD in 2016, with the total number up 10 percent compared to 2010. The number of DOs, however, has risen by 39 percent in the same time frame, to more than 81,000, though still accounting for just 8.5 percent of the physician population.

Female physicians accounted for more than one-third of the total physician population, up from a 29.7 percent share in 2010.

Where physicians come from and choose to train is also changing, according to the report. Since 2010, the number of U.S. citizen who graduated from medical schools in the Carribean increased 95 percent, accounting for 21,519 actively licensed physicians. The share of international medical graduates practicing in the U.S. rose only slightly, from 22.2 percent of all licensed physicians in 2010 to 22.7 percent in 2016.

Those faster-growing segments may provide some balance to the aging physician population.

“While the average age for the total actively licensed physician population is 51 years old, it is considerably lower for DOs, Caribbean medical graduates and females, who average between 45 and 46 years old,” the report said. “It is a point of further interest to track how the average ages of females, DOs and Caribbean medical graduates may affect the composition of the overall licensed physician population in the years to come.”

Older demographics have a greater share of the physician population than in 2010, with 19.3 percent falling between the ages of 60 and 69 and 10 percent age 70 or older.