Finally, Medical Schools Add Students; MCG Sees Trend Up after Years of Down

Article excerpt

Byline: TOM CORWIN

AUGUSTA -- As the daughter of a physician in Columbus, Sequia Holland knows she has already accomplished something by getting admitted this year to the School of Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia.

She just wishes there were more like her. So do MCG officials and a national group of medical colleges.

For the first time, there are more than 17,000 students enrolled in medical schools in the United States, an increase of about 2 percent after years of decline, said Jordan Cohen, the president of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

But the group had called for a 15 percent increase earlier this year to meet what it projected will be a shortage of 90,000 physicians by 2020. Part of the problem is a growing demand from an aging population, Cohen said.

"The fact that older people use more health-care services. The fact that doctors as a group actually are aging faster than the population," he said. "They will be retiring in substantial numbers over the next several years. Certainly the numbers that are coming into the profession are barely keeping pace with the retirements."

Georgia is already below the U.S. average in the ratio of physicians per person and is expecting those national trends to have an impact, said Ben Robinson, the executive director of the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce.

"We are concerned that if we don't take action to bolster the medical education system that we could be facing a shortage in the near future," he said.

Last year, the state increased funding that resulted in more graduate medical education slots, including some in family medicine in Augusta, he said.

MCG also plans to increase its class size next year from 180 to 190, the first change since the 1970s, said Ruth-Marie Fincher, the vice dean for academic affairs in the School of Medicine. …