After six consecutive years of flagging figures, the number of medical school applicants rose 3.4% for the 2003-2004 academic year, mainly because of the largest number of women applicants ever, the Association of American Medical Colleges reported. For the current year, 34,785 applicants tried for a spot in medical schools, up from 33,625 for the year before. For the first time, the number of female applicants -- 17,672 -- exceeded male applicants. Meanwhile, the number of black applicants rose almost 5%, although the number who entered medical school declined 6%. The AAMC predicted the rebound would continue in the 2004-2005 academic year and cited a 5% increase in the number of first-time applicants for this academic year and an increase in the number of applicants to date for next year's entering class.
In related news, a General Accounting Office study found that the number of U.S. physicians increased 26% from 1991 to 2001, twice the rate of growth in the overall population, but geographic disparities persisted in the physician supply. Nonmetropolitan areas continued to have fewer physicians per 100,000 residents than metropolitan areas despite posting a higher rate of growth in the physician population. In 2001, nonmetropolitan areas had 122 physicians per 100,000 people compared with 267 per 100,000 in metropolitan areas. Still, the number of areas with fewer than 100 physicians per 100,000 residents decreased. Read the GAO report. -- by Tony Fong and Jeff Tieman