Posted: Monday, November 4, 2013 12:25 am
Rachel Coffman, Correspondent
N.C. State’s Health Professions Advising Center, which almost lost funding before this semester, is helping provide more students a pathway to medical school than ever before.
Dr. Anita Flick, the director of health professions advising at N.C. State, said that during the past two years, Health PAC has seen a 70 percent increase in the number of students applying to medical school through its program and review committee.
Health PAC, which is heavily IT driven with an extensive website, a portfolio and composite system, listserv, service and events tracking, event registration and pre-health club functions, nearly lost funding due to budget cuts before fall 2013.
“Through efforts of the Office of Student Affairs, N.C. State was able to determine resources needed to maintain the program and provide the support for students,” Flick said.
Flick said medical school acceptance rates are rising as well. In recent years, about 75 to 80 percent of students utilizing Health PAC’s services who are recommended without reservation by the review committee gain acceptance into one of their chosen schools — a high statistic compared to a national average of 40 to 45 percent, Flick said.
“We now have 5,000 pre-health students,” Flick said. “We continue to see increasing numbers of students both entering the discipline and returning to campus to pursue healthcare careers.”
N.C. State’s shift reflects a nationwide trend: Medical school application and acceptance rates in the United States are at an all-time high.
According to a report by the Chronicle for Higher Education, the number of medical school applicants increased by 6.1 percent to about 48,000 in 2013. The number of students enrolled increased as well, exceeding 20,000 for the first time.
Increases can be attributed to a 2006 nationwide call for medical schools to increase enrollments by 30 percent with a hope to prevent a predicted shortage of 90,000 physicians, reported the Chronicle.
A current medical school applicant in the interview process, Elizabeth Kripner, a senior in marine science, said that increases in acceptance rates are exciting, but gradual.
“The increases definitely make me happy, but I’m still under really competitive conditions, so it’s not affecting me as much,” Kripner said. “I think it’s going to be a slow push for schools to increase enrollment while keeping the faculty-student ratio small.”
Kripner, who applied to the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, said that ECU’s program cannot be expanded past its current maximum of 80 spots until a new facility is built. This limitation makes it difficult to meet the growing national need for physicians, Kripner said.
“Medical schools have to turn away very good applicants,” Kripner said. “We need increased enrollment to allow more qualified physicians to be produced.”
However, nothing has changed about life after medical school. The number of available residency positions—a period in which medical school graduates work for more experienced physicians for three to seven years—is federally capped at 28,500 first-year spots.
With the opening of new medical schools across the nation, including one at Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., the American Medical Student Association is calling for increases in the number of residency training spots to accommodate higher enrollment rates.
Flick said that N.C. State students entering the competitive application process for medical school use the Health PAC program, which helps students build a portfolio to see where they stand in categories including academic, professional and clinical experience, social and outside interests, service, and leadership.
“All the applicants have beautiful GPAs and test scores,” Flick said. “They need to know what is going to help them stand out.”