A booming economy, a changing healthcare industry and a perception of loss of physician autonomy could be blamed for the decline in medical school applicants nationwide.
"We don't have a clear idea why it's happening," says John Parker, director of media relations for the Association of American Medical Colleges. "There's no one reason. I think we can point to several things that are going on out there."
The number of medical school applicants dropped 4.7% between 1997 and 1998. However, the number of people entering medical school increased .03% in the same time span, perhaps suggesting fewer but higher-quality applicants are seeking medical school slots.
Elimination of affirmative action in several states has had an impact on the number of minority applicants, he says. The number of minorities applying to medical school dropped by 1.3% between 1997 and 1998. Native Americans accounted for the biggest decrease, with 10.1% fewer applicants. However, the number of minorities entering medical school increased overall. Native Americans also accounted for the biggest increase in the number of people enrolling in medical school, with a 19.51% jump. The number of blacks entering med school jumped nearly 6%.
The AAMC will release data from 1999 later this year.
About three years ago, medical schools saw a record number of applicants, Parker says.
"(Today) there are a lot of different opportunities out there for young bright people," Parker says. "You can pull out four or five different things that may all play a role. I don't think you can put your finger on any one in particular."