Perspective

For the first time, more women than men are in medical school

Women made up the majority of enrolled medical students in the United States for the first time, according to data for the 2019-2020 academic year.

“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, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, said in a press release.

Female doctor 
Women made up the majority of enrolled medical students in the United States for the first time, according to data for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Source:Adobe

According to the AAMC, the proportion of women in medical school has been increasing in recent years — from 46.9% in 2015 to 49.5% in 2018. This year, that percentage reached 50.5%.

The organization reported that of all Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) applications completed for the 2018-2019 academic year, internal medicine had the most overall applicants (24,961) and osteopathic neuromusculoskeletal medicine had the least (7).

The data also show:

  • The number of Hispanic matriculants for the 2019-2020 academic year is up 6.3% from the year before, as is the number of American Indian or Alaska Native matriculants (up 5.5%) and black matriculants (up 3.2%).
  • The number of first-time medical school applicants for the 2019-2020 academic year is up 2% from the year before — now at 39,238.
  • Most matriculants for the 2019-2020 academic year came from California (2,603), and the least came from Wyoming (29).

Despite the progress, Skorton warned against complacency.

“The modest increases in enrollment among underrepresented groups are simply not enough,” he said. “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.”

Disclosure: Skorton is president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Women made up the majority of enrolled medical students in the United States for the first time, according to data for the 2019-2020 academic year.

“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, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, said in a press release.

Female doctor 
Women made up the majority of enrolled medical students in the United States for the first time, according to data for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Source:Adobe

According to the AAMC, the proportion of women in medical school has been increasing in recent years — from 46.9% in 2015 to 49.5% in 2018. This year, that percentage reached 50.5%.

The organization reported that of all Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) applications completed for the 2018-2019 academic year, internal medicine had the most overall applicants (24,961) and osteopathic neuromusculoskeletal medicine had the least (7).

The data also show:

  • The number of Hispanic matriculants for the 2019-2020 academic year is up 6.3% from the year before, as is the number of American Indian or Alaska Native matriculants (up 5.5%) and black matriculants (up 3.2%).
  • The number of first-time medical school applicants for the 2019-2020 academic year is up 2% from the year before — now at 39,238.
  • Most matriculants for the 2019-2020 academic year came from California (2,603), and the least came from Wyoming (29).

Despite the progress, Skorton warned against complacency.

“The modest increases in enrollment among underrepresented groups are simply not enough,” he said. “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.”

Disclosure: Skorton is president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

    Perspective
    Jasmine R. Marcelin

    Jasmine R. Marcelin

    Since women were first allowed to enter medical school, we have been waiting with bated breath for the time when there would be equal numbers of men and women enrolled in medical school. This year, for the first time, women outnumber men enrolled in medical school by 0.5%. Although many are touting this as evidence of progress, we should take a thoughtful pause.

    Why?

    For one thing, while numbers of women enrolling in medical school have been rising over time, the numbers of women in leadership roles (ie, chairs, deans, etc.) has not increased in parallel. In fact, women represent only 25% of full professors in academic medicine, 16% of medical school deans, and 18% of department chairs. Given that women have comprised  at least 45% of medical school classes for 20 years, this is clearly not a pipeline issue. Additionally, women continue to experience high rates of harassment, bias and pay inequity, leading to more women than men leaving medicine.

    Even though there are roughly equal numbers of men and women in medical school now, there are still significant racial and ethnic inequities. For example, enrollment of African Americans rose by 3.2% this year (1,916 matriculants out of 21,869!), and although the AAMC statement highlights a 5.5% increase in American Indian/Alaska Native matriculants, the absolute number of these students is a dismal 230. That we do not even keep track of LGBTQ+folx or future #DocsWithDisabilities is also telling. 

    At the end of the day, 50.5% of women enrolled in medical schools does not mean we have achieved equity when women are not equitably represented in leadership and subspecialties, and racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+folx, #DocsWithDisabilities and other underrepresented groups (including intersectional women who belong to one or more underrepresented groups), are struggling to be seen anywhere in medicine and leadership. It is a milestone to celebrate, of course, but as a black woman physician, it is a reminder that our work is not done yet, and we should not rest until the people delivering health care and making decisions reflect the diversity of the patients we care for.

    References:

    Association of American Medical Colleges. The Majority of U.S. Medical Students Are Women, New Data Show. https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/press-releases/majority-us-medical-students-are-women-new-data-show. Accessed December 2019.

    Association of American Medical Colleges. Where are all the women deans? https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/where-are-all-women-deans. Accessed December 2019.

    Association of American Medical Colleges. Why women leave medicine, https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/why-women-leave-medicine. Accessed December 2019.

    • Jasmine R. Marcelin, MD, FACP
    • Assistant professor of infectious diseases
      Associate program director, internal medicine residency
      Associate medical director, antimicrobial stewardship program
      University of Nebraska Medical Center

    Disclosures: Marcelin reports no relevant financial disclosures.