Context Physician shortages are appearing, yet controversy about their significance
and uncertainty about their remedy exist.
Objectives To sample the perceptions of medical school deans and state medical
society executives about the adequacy of physician supply, to determine the
perceived impact of any shortages on medical schools, and to assess the capacity
of medical schools to expand.
Design, Setting, and Participants Medical school deans in the United States and Puerto Rico were surveyed
by means of a structured questionnaire, and officials of US state medical
societies were queried by means of open-ended telephone interviews. Information
was obtained from 58% of medical school deans and 86% of state medical society
Main Outcome Measure Reported perceptions of shortages or surpluses of physicians by specialty
and plans to increase medical school class size.
Results Approximately 85% of both deans and medical society respondents perceived
shortages of physicians, usually in multiple specialties, while 10% perceived
surpluses, usually coexisting with shortages. Among deans reporting shortages,
83% described a negative impact on their schools. Recent or planned increases
in class size were reported by 27% of deans and expansion capacity by another
34%, but 7% noted recent decreases in class size. Applied generally, these
changes in class size could yield 7.6% additional matriculants annually.
Conclusions Physician shortages are prevalent and they are negatively affecting
medical schools. Little capacity exists to alleviate these shortages through
class size expansion.