There’s a pandemic and a physician shortage. In Michigan, more people are applying to med school – Lansing State Journal

EAST LANSING Going to medical school was always part of the plan for Mohaymin Kadir.

He grew up in Hamtramck where many of his neighborslackedaccess to affordable medical care and affordable nutrition. Sometimes, he did, too.

Kadir's sense of the health care system'sdeficiencies was only sharpened during his studiesat the University of Michigan, where he earned a master's degreeinpublic health focusing on epidemiology.

I learned more about the disparities and how they cement themselves, said Kadir,who was born inBangladesh. We need more diversity in medicine and more representation to sustain positive change in medicine.

Which is why he'sstarting this fall at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, one ofthousands of hopefuls who submittedapplications to the College of Human Medicine and other medical schools around the state, one of the successful ones.

Lots of people want to be doctors these days.

Nearly 9,000 prospective students have applied for seats in the next 190-student class, said Joel Maurer, assistant dean of admissions for the MSU College of Human Medicine,up from 7,959last year.

For the entering class of 2019, six of Michigan's medical schools received 43,602 applications,up 4,193 from 2018 and up 15,157 from 2014. These numbers likely reflectprospective students submitting applications at multiple medical schools.

The number of applicants nationwide trying to get into medical schools also grew, hitting53,371 prospective studentsin 2019. That comparesto 49,480 in 2014 and 33,623 in 2002.

This means more people are vying for spots in what's become a significant competition. To meet the demand, some schools increased their class sizes or are considering expanding.

TheCMU College of Medicine accepted 64 students for its first year in 2014 and increased the class size to 104 for each year since, Austin said.

The medical schoolcould consider adding 20 more spots to the incoming class in 2021, he said.

TheWestern Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, a private school affiliated with WMU, first accepted a class of 54 students who graduated in 2018. Since then, the class size has grown to 60, to 72 and now to 84 students, according toJean Shelton, WMed assistant dean of admissions and student life.

A sign at the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing, Michigan.(Photo: LSJ file photo/Derrick L. Turner)

Some schools, like the MSU College of Human Medicine, say they're at capacity with their current class size of about 200 students. Hiring more faculty and adding more training space and buildings at their East Lansing and Grand Rapids campuses would be the only way to increase the class size, Maurer said.

They may have to consider changes as more people apply.

The University of Michigan Medical School saw 7,896 applications submitted in 2019, about 2,269 more than in 2011.

Medical schools across the board have seen more and more applicants in recent years, including the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, which received 6,653 applications in the last window, said Katherine Ruger, the college's associate dean of admissions and student life. That's up from the 6,169 applications in 2019 and a growth from 5,015 in 2014.

Enrollment officials from different medical schools pointed to a variety of reasons for the trend. Ruger suspects this year's applicants had more time for submissions since COVID-19 shut downs reduced their opportunities for traveling, working or volunteering.

The MSU College of Human Medicine's efforts to increase marketing and recruitment and additional work to increasepublic interest in science, medicine and human service may have helped, Maurer said.

It was the human service aspect and helping the underserved, an element of the College of Human Medicines mission statement, that brought Momodou Gobi Bah across the world to pursue a career in medicine.

He grew up in Gambia, a country in western Africa where Bah said there aren't enough hospitals and medical facilities. Hedreamed of studying medicine at a university and coming back to help his country.

Momodou Gobi Bah will train to become a physician at Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine starting this fall.(Photo: Momodou Gobi Bah)

I would love to know, looking at a patient, that I can help them and two weeks later the patient gets better, he said. Its a powerful feeling and I want to be a part of that world.

Central Michigan University began training future physicians in 2013. Thenumber of applicants has jumped every year since.

That first year, 2,765 students applied. The 2019 application window hit 7,442 applications, with nearly 7,000 applications so far for 2020.

Wayne State University School of Medicine, the only medical school in Detroit, may be helped by its urban environment, said Kevin J. Sprague, associate dean for admissions and enrollment management.

Wayne State has seenthe number of applicants nearly double since 2014, when the medical school received 4,588 applications, according to Sprague. In 2019, the number hit 9,993.

Wayne State is an excellent school in an inner-city, urban environment, Sprague said. Its an excellent place for medical education.

More applicants could mean more doctors to address the country's physician shortage.

In an April 2019 study, the Association of American Medical Colleges projecteda total physician shortage nationwide of between 46,900 and 121,900 by 2032. Included in that is a projected primary care physician shortage of21,100 to 55,200 physicians.

The growing number of applicantsis a good sign for those concerned about the coming shortage, saidGeoffrey Young, senior director ofstudent affairs and programs for the Association of American Medical Colleges.

"It really demonstrates a strong interest in a career in medicine," he said. "This is what we think is critical as the nation faces a shortage of physicians."

And at CMU, Austin expects the COVID-19 pandemic will motivate even more people to go into the medical field, bringing another spike in applications.

Seeing more and more people succumb to the coronavirus made Khaleel Quasem more determined than ever to enter the fight.

The MSU College of Human Medicine accepted Quasem, from Marquette, into its next class of future physicians. He comes from a family of doctors, including his father and several uncles, but he didnt feel pressure to follow in their footsteps.

Rather, thepath leading him to medical educationstarted when he wasa food service worker in the University of Michigan health system. He later becamea phlebotomist. It was when he began shadowing physicians at Memorial Endocrinology in Owosso and Marquette Internal Medicine and Pediatric Associates that it became clear the career he would choose.

Watching physicians helping the thousands of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 and making dramatic changes to work styles so they can continue caring for patients fighting the contagious disease madehim want to be a part of it.

In the end, we will get through the coronavirus pandemic, but only in a way that we would be much better off than we were before, Quasem said. In a decade from now, health care education will look back on this and use it as a lesson on what we did right, what we did wrong, and how to combat a situation if it happens again.

Eneka Lamb(Photo: Eneka Lamb)

The pandemic has highlighted howeasily public health can be politicized, which disappointed Eneka Lamb, who once thought medicine was apolitical.

Still, political infighting over the disease hasnt pushed Lamb away from pursuitof a medical career. She came from Hong Kong to complete her undergraduate education at Duke University and now plans to start at the MSU College of Human Medicine in the fall. The coronavirus galvanized her desire to become a doctor.

I really dont fear going into the medical field, she said. I feel a little bit antsy. I want to hit the ground running as quickly as possible.

For many students entering medical school this comingfall, helping with future disease outbreaks is just a piece of why they chose to study medicine.

Kadir still doesnt know the area of medicine he wants to specialize in. Maybe infectious disease, he said, or a public health specialty.

He hopes to shine a light on the health disparities many people face, especially people of color. COVID-19 helped bringthe issue to light death rates were higher in communities with larger populations of African-Americans and other people of color, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People who have looked into it have always been aware of it, Kadir said. I think having more people from that background in positions of power is key to sustain change.

Contact Mark Johnson at 517-377-1026 or him on Twitter at@ByMarkJohnson.

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