UA med school applications outpace other institutions

Published: Dec. 10, 2015 at 3:18 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 4, 2016 at 5:23 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - There are 6,457 applications that have been submitted to the University of Arizona College of Medicine for the Class of 2020.

There are 115 slots available.

The number of applications is an almost 14 percent increase over the number of applications the college received for the Class of 2019.

The UA increase is more than double the 6.2 percent increase medical schools across the nation are averaging.

In a news release the university said, "Of the 6,457 applicants, 883 are Arizona residents, and 2,134 are from California."

Still, nationally, there is a severe shortage of doctors that's expected to get worse.

At a time when doctors are leaving the profession, either to retire or just to get out as the field changes, a record number of medical school applicants at the University of Arizona in Tucson is great news.

What's different for them?

"It's always going to be a prestigious field and there's always going to be a lot of involvement of people in science and bio-tech and all the other industries in the U.S. And, as a result of that, you're going to get more people involved through the sciences and then at the end of the day - medicine. You get to do a lot of cool things that people could only dream about," UA medical student Ross Kelley said.

"I like the fact that you're doing something worthwhile and it's fun. You're finding something out. It's like piecing together a puzzle and finding out what's going on and then helping the patient so that they can ultimately walk out of the hospital feeling better," UA medical student Tiffany Pouldar said.

Every student has a story to tell, a different reason for getting into medicine and to study at UA.

"From looking at the thousands of applications, what you see is a more holistic student. And they're interested, not only in the science of medicine, but in the service portion of medicine ... understanding how their past experiences can contribute to the care of their patient populations. And they want to take what they've learned in the classroom and apply it widely ... not only statewide, but globally," said Dr. Tanisha Price-Johnson, UA College of Medicine Admissions executive director.

Medical student Ned Premyodhin said, "I chose medicine because I felt like medicine was a natural fit with engineering. It was an opportunity to employ technology to do a better job of taking care of our patients to innovate to come up with new things."

Price-Johnson said the UA's location offers unique opportunities.

"We touch the border of Mexico so that gives our students the opportunity to work, not only in border health, but in international health. And then our proximity to our Native American tribal communities, allowing our students to really understand the social determinants of health that are applicable to our state," she said.

Another attraction, Banner University Medical Center, a teaching hospital, is across the hall from the college.

"I think also the opportunity with our distinction track. So if you're interested in research, if you're interested in global health, if you're interested in bilingual medical Spanish to add that to your portfolio while you're here in medical school. There's just vast opportunities for our students to really make their experience here even more robust," Price-Johnson said.

However, there's a shortage of physicians that's projected to reach between 46,000 and 90,000 by 2025.

The federal government funds the required residencies of medical school graduates, their internships, if you will.

Congress has not allocated the money to keep up with the need.

With more money for graduates, medical schools can open more seats.

It's a discussion medical schools want to have.

"It can't just be your hospital affiliates, your Congress, your senators. It has to be everyone who's involved within this process to truly understand what's needed," Price-Johnson said.

In the meantime, there's no shortage of young people eager to step up to fill the need.

"It's a lot of work. we're here for the long haul. We're all currently studying for finals right now. and I knew it was going to be a big commitment but it's definitely worthwhile," medical student Laura Bricklin said.
Price-Johnson said she's hopeful the medical education challenges will be met within 10 years.

In the meantime, thousands upon thousands of students continue to compete for a relatively small number of seats in the country's medical schools while the doctor shortage continues to worsen.

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