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The Dartmouth
May 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

More students look to medicine

More students than ever before applied to medical school this year, continuing the recent increases in the numbers of applicants.

According to a report by the Association of American Medical Colleges printed in The New York Times, this year's total number of applications will surpass the previous record of 42,621 set in 1974-1975.

Only 16,500 spaces are available in medical schools across the country.

The Dartmouth Medical School is seeing a similar increase in applicants. According to Andrew Wallace, dean of the medical school, around 5,000 students applied for 85 possible openings.

"I do know that [the number of applications] is up significantly and it is up significantly at a national level," Wallace said. "I think it's clear that nationally there seem to be more students interested in going to medical school than in the past."

Wallace said that applications to the Medical School have risen slightly faster than the national average. According to Wallace, the quality of applicants is also rising, making competition even tougher.

"Everything is up in terms of the academic qualifications of the people we have offered positions to," he said. The number of minority students and the number of Dartmouth students accepted rose.

Medical schools are seeing the increase despite a new national health plan that could reduce doctor's salaries and add more regulation to the medical profession.

Dave Wolk '94, who said he will apply to medical schools next month, said the impending Clinton Administration reforms "really had no bearing on my decision."

Wolk said the uncertainties in the health care field, such as the risk of AIDS, did not turn him away from wanting to apply to medical school.

"I wasn't personally discouraged," Wolk said. "I was discouraged by others. Other doctors warned that things aren't going to be as easy as they were."

Wolk said students who really want to be doctors won't be discouraged by potentially lower salaries and reforms. He said most students want to be doctors to help others and are not motivated primarily by prestige and monetary motives.

Ursula Musser '93, who is waiting to hear from medical schools, said, "The uncertainties about health care reform did not influence my decision at all. It wouldn't be right to turn away when the reasons I am going into medicine -- fascination with the human body and the ways people have discovered to treat its pathologies and love and interest in people -- will still be there."

"Plus the dream of becoming a doctor is one I've had for too long now to throw away because I'm unsure of how the profession will look in the future," she added.

Wolk partially attributed the recent increase in applications to the occupation's stability.

"It's always going to be somewhat of a lucrative occupation and a stable occupation," he said. "There will always be a need for doctors."

Dan Jacobs '93, who is also applying to medical school, agreed. "With the economy down lately, that's maybe the primary reason" for the increase in applications, he said.

But the large number of applications medical schools are receiving do not present the complete picture. Most pre-med students apply to nearly a dozen medical schools.

And Wallace said the number of applications is rebounding from a "rather precipitous" drop in the late 1980s. "My own view is that we are recovering from a downturn rather than seeing an excessive amount of applicants," he said.

The 1980s drop was due to news reports that the medical field was saturated with doctors. The drop was also a result of practicing doctors advising students not to go into their profession because of increasing malpractice litigation and government intervention.

Wallace said business, law, and other professional schools enticed many students away from medical school during the late 1980s.