Women now outnumber men in medical schools

A stethoscope sits on an examination table in an exam room at a Community Clinic health center in Takoma Park, Md. (Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer)

For the first time, women make up the majority of students in U.S. medical schools. In 2019, 46,878 medical school students (50.5%) are women and 45,855 (49.4%) are men, according to a new report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC).

The enrollment proportion has been shifting in women’s favor in recent years. From 2009 to 2019, for instance, the number of men in medical schools increased by 5,465, while the number of women in medical schools increased by 9,899.

In the medical profession overall, male doctors still outnumber female doctors, 64% to 36%, according to 2019 data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.But that may be changing, according to a report from the health-care company AthenaHealth. Its survey of 18,000 physicians at 3,500 practices on its network found that, in 2017, 80% of doctors 65 and older were men, but 60% of doctors younger than 35 were women. The disparity between male and female doctors appears to extend to their chosen field of specialization.

A joint report this fall from the American Medical Association and AAMC finds that male doctors dominate orthopedic surgery (85%), neurological surgery (82 percent) and interventional radiology (81%), and female doctors dominate obstetrics and gynecology (83%), allergy and immunology (74%) and pediatrics (72%). Specialties with a nearly equal balance of male and female doctors are sleep medicine, preventive medicine, pathology and psychiatry.

Overall, medical schools this year experienced about a 1% increase in applicants and in new enrollees, which the AAMC says contributes to an enrollment growth of 33% since 2002. Still, it notes, the country faces a projected shortage of 122,000 doctors by 2032.

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