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Selecting Tomorrows Physicians: The Key to the Future Health Care Workforce

Mahon, Kelly E. MA; Henderson, Mackenzie K.; Kirch, Darrell G. MD

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000023

Recent U.S. health care reform efforts have focused on three main goals: improving health care for individuals, improving population health, and lowering costs. Physicians, who traditionally have practiced with considerable autonomy, will be required to become members of the team-based patient care models necessary to achieve these goals. In this perspective, the authors assert that medical school admissions, the selection of the future physician workforce, is a key component of health care reform. They review the historical context for medical school admission processes, which have placed a premium on grades and standardized test scores, and examine how admission practices are undergoing fundamental changes in order to select physicians with both the academic and interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies necessary to operate in the health care system of the future. The authors describe how new techniques, such as holistic review and multiple mini-interviews, are contributing to the shift toward competency-based medical education. Innovations underway at the Association of American Medical Colleges to transform medical school admissions also are explored. The authors conclude by arguing that although the admission process has great potential to transform the future health care workforce, major overhauls of the health care payment and delivery systems must be achieved alongside innovations in health professions education to truly transform the U.S. health care system.

Author Information

Ms. Mahon is a speechwriter, American Nurses Association, Silver Spring, MD. At the time of writing, she was senior executive communications specialist, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.

Ms. Henderson is senior engagement solutions specialist, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC. At the time of writing, she was research and policy analyst to the president, Association of American Medical Colleges.

Dr. Kirch is president and CEO, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC.

Funding/Support: None.

Other disclosures: None.

Ethical approval: Not applicable.

Correspondence should be addressed to Ms. Henderson, Association of American Medical Colleges, 2450 N St., NW, Washington, DC 20037; telephone: (202) 828-0611; e-mail:

© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges