Three pathways to a physician career: applicants to U.S. MD and DO schools and U.S. Citizen applicants to international medical schools

Acad Med. 2008 Dec;83(12):1125-31. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31818c6445.


Purpose: To determine the size of the overall applicant pool for medical education (applicants to U.S. MD schools and DO schools, and to international medical schools) and to determine the degree of overlap of the three types of applicants.

Method: A cooperative agreement among the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, and the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates permitted the authors to uniquely identify applicants and students of all three types and to combine their data into a study file containing data on applicants for each year. Overlaps in the three applicant pools were then determined, and repeat applicants were separated from first-time applicants.

Results: A key finding is that two thirds of osteopathic applicants in any recent year also applied to U.S. MD schools, whereas only one in seven U.S. MD applicants also applied to DO schools. Seventy-two percent of students in international medical schools did not apply to any U.S. school in the same year. After separating out repeat applicants, the authors found that 90% of all first-time applicants applied to a U.S. MD school.

Conclusions: If all first-time applicants applied to U.S. MD schools, the pool of first-time applicants would be increased by only 11%. It may be necessary to recruit additional applicants to meet projected growth in the aggregate capacity of both U.S. MD and DO schools. Although the number and quality of applicants seem to be adequate for the near term, it will be important to continue to monitor these trends.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Career Choice*
  • Databases as Topic
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Female
  • Foreign Medical Graduates*
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteopathic Medicine / education*
  • School Admission Criteria*
  • Schools, Medical*
  • United States
  • Young Adult