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Push for more physicians sparks new medical schools

BY KELLIE PETERSEN | MARCH 01, 2010 7:30 AM

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In the highly competitive medical-school admissions, rejection becomes a common theme even for qualified applicants.

But in response to a demand for more physicians, new medical colleges are popping up nationwide to educate more students.

Some University of Iowa doctor-hopefuls said the trend could help alleviate the shortage, but might hurt future credibility.

“It’s great for students who want to get into medical school,” said Dan Gratie, a UI sophomore and prospective medical school student. “But overall for the field, though, I don’t think it’s helping it.”

A dozen new medical schools are in the initial accreditation process with the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which authorizes American medical-education programs. The spike comes as a response to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ push for a 30 percent increase in the number of physicians by the year 2015.

For UI senior Katie Menning, who is looking into medical schools, the news isn’t detrimental to her plans. The trend likely won’t have an effect for graduates looking to practice in small towns, which suffer from the shortage the most.

Despite the call for more physicians and seeing an increasing number of applications, the UI Carver College of Medicine will keep its class size the same as the past four years.

The college will admit 148 students in the fall 2010 first-year class. Officials will select from around 3,000 applications — between 600 and 700 more than in previous years.

Christopher Cooper, the college’s associate dean for student affairs and curriculum, said further increases would disrupt the current teaching style.

In 1995, the college changed its curriculum from lecture-style teaching, which could accommodate 185 students, to interactive small groups. The new setup is more intensive and engaging for students, Cooper said.

Increasing class sizes creates a bigger applicant pool for residencies, which could create more competition nationwide, said Damien Ihrig, the medical-school registrar.

The National Residency Match Program use an algorithm to match graduates to the residency program that is the best fit. If graduates aren’t matched to a resident program at first, they enter a weeklong process called “the scramble,” in which they feverishly try to find residency programs, Ihrig said.

But for now, the focus for most UI students eyeing life as physicians remains on standing out in a growing pool of applicants.

“The academic standard was always there, but to go above and beyond, like a lab job and volunteering, is kind of like a prerequisite before you can even think about applying,” Gratie said.
Nicholas Bedard, a first-year medical student, agreed.

“I think a lot of the difficult of getting into medical school is not that everyone is not qualified but that it is hard [for the schools] to choose,” he said.


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