HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Look for a Surge in the Opening of New U.S. Medical Schools

Approximately two dozen medical schools have recently opened, or are projected to open, across the country, the most at any time since the 1960s and ’70s. In comparision, only one new medical school was established during the 1980s and '90s. The New York Times explains:

The proliferation of new schools is ... a market response to a rare convergence of forces: a growing population; the aging of the health-conscious baby-boom generation; the impending retirement of, by some counts, as many as a third of current doctors; and the expectation that, the present political climate notwithstanding, changes in health care policy will eventually bring a tide of newly insured patients into the American health care system.

The Association of American Medical Colleges, a trade group, has called for a 30 percent increase in enrollment, or about 5,000 more doctors a year. The association’s Center for Workforce Studies estimates that 3,500 more M.D.s will enter graduate training over the next 10 years, roughly half of the 7,000 international medical school graduates now entering medical residencies in the United States every year, according to Edward Salsberg, director of the center.

If all the schools being proposed actually opened, they would amount to an 18 percent increase in the 131 medical schools across the country. (By comparison, there are 200 law schools approved by the American Bar Association.) And beyond the new schools, many existing schools are expanding enrollment, sometimes through branch campuses. While The Commonwealth is an independent school, many of the other new or proposed schools are affiliated with established universities, like Hofstra, which is teaming up with North Shore Long Island Jewish Medical Center; Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.; the University of California, Riverside; Central Michigan University; and Rowan University in Camden, N.J.

Supporters of the expansion say that having more doctors will improve care, by getting doctors to urban and rural areas where they are needed, by shifting care to primary and family practice physicians rather than expensive specialists, and by reducing long waits for people to see a doctor and get the care they need. But skeptics say that although many parts of the country do need more primary care, American doctors tend to congregate in affluent, urban and suburban areas that already have a generous supply.They say that doctors create demand for their own services, and that nurse practitioners and physician assistants could fill gaps in medical care at a lower cost.

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