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AMA Monitoring Decline in Medical School Enrollments

September 27, 1985

CHICAGO (AP) _ The physician glut predicted for the 1990s apparently isn’t developing, but prospective medical students still are steering toward other careers because they fear professional overcrowding, the American Medical Association says.

That fear, coupled with a cutoff in federal funds for medical schools, are the main reasons for a three-year decline in medical school enrollments, said Anne E. Crowley of the AMA’s Office of Educational Directories.

The number of students enrolling declined from a high of 17,320 in 1981-82 to a low of 16,992 in 1984-85, according to the AMA.

″I would say at this point it’s not something for concern ... but it should be monitored in order to determine how many doctors are enough,″ she said.

Some medical fields have too many doctors, while others, such as rural medicine, have too few, Ms. Crowley said in an article in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

That disproportionate distribution makes it difficult to determine how many medical students are needed, she said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Figures for the current school year were not available, but Ms. Crowley and Charles Fentress, a spokesman for the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, D.C., said they were expected to be about the same as last year, or lower.

Experts predicted in the 1970s that there would be a glut of doctors during the next 20 years, but Fentress said that trend had not developed.

″The thinking that there would be too many doctors has been modified,″ Fentress said in a telephone interview Thursday, adding that a surplus was not anticipated through 1990.

Fentress said the 1981 elimination of a federal program that provided funds to medical schools forced reductions in the number of spaces available for new students.

Increasing tuition costs have not been cited as a factor in the enrollment decline.

Despite the overall decline, female enrollments in medical schools were up for the 11th straight year, Ms. Crowley said. Minority enrollments have not changed much in recent years, she said. Minorities made up about 15.7 percent of the 1984-85 class.

Although enrollments are declining, Ms. Crowley said the number of applications to medical schools was increasing. But not all applicants are accepted and some who are accepted delay enrolling, she said.

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