Letters to the Editor
Drs. Campbell and Rodríguez call attention to our finding that a relatively small percentage of medical students report plans to work with underserved populations or care primarily for minority patients, and go on to suggest reasons for this finding. Although there has been a growing interest in these career paths relative to a decade ago, we agree that the shift in matriculants’ interests in serving the underserved and minority populations has been insufficient relative to the need.
In our study, we assessed changes in the national medical student body across the recent period of medical school expansion. The study demonstrates changes over the past decade in students’ demographic characteristics and their career interests at matriculation, as they embark on their journey of medical training. While specific exposures during medical school, such as those proposed by Drs. Campbell and Rodríguez, could have a positive impact, they would be unlikely to influence our findings regarding students entering medical school. Nevertheless, their comments are important to consider. Medical school matriculants’ career interests are often nascent and wavering, and can be powerfully influenced by their experiences during training.
Medical school leaders who voice a commitment to meet our nation’s workforce needs should recognize that expansion in class size is not sufficient to achieve this goal. Medical schools can directly influence workforce outcomes through the applicants they admit, the culture of the learning environment, the clinical settings in which students are trained, and the physician mentors and role models to which they are exposed. Drs. Campbell and Rodríguez are to be commended for promoting such efforts, and calling us collectively to action.
Scott A. Shipman, MD, MPH
Director of Primary Care Affairs and Workforce Analysis, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, D.C.; firstname.lastname@example.org.