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Osteopathic Medical School Graduate Numbers Continue to Rise

This spring, U.S. osteopathic medical schools graduated 3,845 seniors, a number that has grown steadily over the past decade. The graduates, who are preparing to enter residency programs across the country, will help mitigate the nation’s physician workforce shortage as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (PL 111-152) are implemented. Provisions in these acts are expected to allow coverage for a projected 32 million uninsured Americans.

The number of osteopathic medical school applicants has risen from 8,396 in 2000 to more than 13,380 this year. Over the past 10 years, total enrollment at the nation’s colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) has grown from 10,388 students to more than 18,000. As a result of the recent significant growth, the number of new doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) has increased annually since 1999, when just 2,169 seniors graduated from the nation’s COMs. For more information, visit

Twenty percent of new U.S. medical students are training to be DOs. There are currently 26 schools of osteopathic medicine offering instruction at 34 locations in 25 states; by 2015, COMs will graduate more than 5,300 osteopathic physicians. As the numbers of osteopathic medical schools, applicants, and students grow, osteopathic medical school graduates will constitute a larger and larger percentage of the nation’s physician workforce.

Osteopathic medical school students continue to pursue primary care fields (internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics) in proportions significantly surpassing those of their allopathic colleagues. Forty percent of those who matched in the 2010 American Osteopathic Association (AOA) residency match will be entering osteopathic primary care programs. And of the 1,444 DO students participating in the 2010 Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) match, 55 percent will be entering primary care programs. In contrast, just 34 percent of U.S. MD students matched into primary care training. More telling is family medicine. This year (and in recent years), only 7 – 8 percent of U.S. MD students have matched into that specialty, whereas around 20 percent of DO students select family medicine programs, whether choosing AOA or ACGME (or combined) programs.

The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) recently conducted a survey of the 2009 graduating seniors at the nation’s COMs. The findings include data on self-reported graduating student debt, students’ satisfaction with their medical education, and graduate medical education and career plans. Of special note: 24 percent of respondents consider themselves most likely to work in a primary care specialty (defined as family practice, internal medicine and pediatrics). Fourteen percent of respondents plan to pursue emergency medicine. View the full survey results:

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