Don’t expect to get a doctor’s appointment quicker or spend less time in the waiting room of your primary care physician anytime soon. According to a recent Kaplan Test Prep survey of 543 pre-medical students*, just 32% say they plan to become primary care physicians after earning their MD, while 68% say they plan to become specialists (i.e. cardiologist, neurologist, anesthesiologist, etc.). Of the 68% who plan to become specialists, 86% say the main reason is “academic/personal interest;” only 2% cited “better salary,” although specialists are known to make significantly more than primary care physicians. This lack of interest in pursuing a career in primary care is troubling news for Americans at a time when the projected shortage of primary care physicians is expected to balloon from 9,000 today to about 65,000 over the next 20 years. The main reasons for the shortage: doctors from the Baby Boom generation are rapidly retiring and their fellow Baby Boomers increasingly need medical care as they age. Medical school enrollment is actually up over the past few years, but not at a fast enough clip to stem the tide. The medical education community, led by the Association of American Medical Colleges, which represents all 141 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian allopathic medical schools, has been preparing for the physician shortage by taking several measures: building new medical schools around the country and expanding the number of seats for new students at existing medical schools—with a goal of 30% by 2015, which will result in an additional 5,000 new MD’s annually. Medical schools are also exploring the possibility of shortening medical school from its current four years to three years, so doctors go into practice quicker. This would be popular among aspiring doctors: 71% of pre-meds in Kaplan’s survey said that all other factors being equal, they’d be more likely to attend a three-year program than a four-year program.
“This is among the most exciting times in both medical education and healthcare in generations,” said Owen Farcy, director of pre-health programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “With the Affordable Care Act set to take full effect in 2014 and patient demographics changing rapidly, the need for more primary care doctors will only intensify. While pre-meds say that the main reason they are set on becoming specialists is because of their personal or academic interest, we also think earning potential is understandably a key factor considering how much debt most medical school graduates are saddled with. It’s not about greed, but rather about getting their financial lives in order.” Farcy also notes that shaving a year off of medical school could save students as much as $50,000 in tuition and fees.Farcy points out that 2015 is important, not only because it’s the year the AAMC hopes to meet its medical school expansion goal, but also when the AAMC will launch the new MCAT, the medical school admissions exam required by nearly every accredited medical school across the United States and Canada. Changes to the new MCAT include the addition of subjects in the behavioral and social sciences, advanced science concepts in biochemistry and molecular biology, and expanded critical thinking throughout the exam. While the writing section has already been eliminated as of this year, the additional content will make the 2015 MCAT more than an hour longer than the current exam—going from 5 ½ hours to roughly 7 hours. For more information about the upcoming changes to the MCAT, including advice for current pre-meds about how they will be impacted, visit www.kaptest.com/MCAT2015. To schedule an interview with a Kaplan Test Prep medical school admissions expert, contact Russell Schaffer at email@example.com or 212.453.7538. * The survey was conducted via email in January and February 2013 of 543 pre-med students who took a Kaplan Test Prep MCAT course About Kaplan Test Prep Kaplan Test Prep ( www.kaptest.com) is a premier provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools and businesses. Established in 1938, Kaplan is the world leader in the test prep industry. With a comprehensive menu of online offerings as well as a complete array of print books and digital products, Kaplan offers preparation for more than 90 standardized tests, including entrance exams for secondary school, college and graduate school, as well as professional licensing exams for attorneys, physicians and nurses. Kaplan also provides private tutoring and graduate admissions consulting services. Note to editors: Kaplan is a subsidiary of The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO)