Medical students in the U.S. are predominantly made up of women for the first time in history, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
More than half––50.5%––of all medical school students were women in 2019, building off of a higher proportion of women for years. In 2015, women comprised 46.9% of all students, and 49.5% of all students in 2018. Women made up the majority of first-year medical students in 2017.
The steady gains in the medical school enrollment of women are a very positive trend, and we are delighted to see this progress,” David J. Skorton, MD, AAMC president and CEO, said in a statement.
Applicants for medical schools overall have also been rising, increasing 1.1% from 2018 to 2019, the AAMC found. The increase is good news for a field with a looming physician shortage. A record 53,371 applicants were recorded in 2019, while the number of new enrollees jumped 1.1% to 21,869. Among these applicants and enrollees, the number of women increased while the number of men decreased.
This could also spell good news for women already in the field, as several recent studies have found women continually receive lower compensation than their male peers, as well as other forms of gender discrimination.
In addition to more women making up a higher proportion of students, schools also made modest gains in attracting more a diverse student body. In 2019, the number of applicants who are Hispanic, Latino or of Spanish origin rose 5.1% to 5,858, with enrollees increasing 6.3% to 2,466. Black or African American applicants increased 0.6% to 5,193 with enrollees increasing 3.2% to 1,916. Black or African American men applicants also rose 0.5%, while total enrollment increased 3.7% to 3,189. In addition, American Indian or Alaska Native applicants grew 4.8% to 586, with enrollees increasing 5.5% to 230.
While there was some improvement, more work needs to be done to represent a more diverse medical field.
“The modest increases in enrollment among underrepresented groups are simply not enough,” Skorton continued. “We cannot accept this as the status quo and must do more to educate and train a more diverse physician workforce to care for a more diverse America.”