Context: Physician shortages are appearing, yet controversy about their significance and uncertainty about their remedy exist. Objectives: To sample the perceptions of medical school deans and state medical society executives about the adequacy of physician supply, to determine the perceived impact of any shortages on medical schools, and to assess the capacity of medical schools to expand. Design, Setting, and Participants: Medical school deans in the United States and Puerto Rico were surveyed by means of a structured questionnaire, and officials of US state medical societies were queried by means of open-ended telephone interviews. Information was obtained from 58% of medical school deans and 86% of state medical society executives. Main Outcome Measure: Reported perceptions of shortages or surpluses of physicians by specialty and plans to increase medical school class size. Results: Approximately 85% of both deans and medical society respondents perceived shortages of physicians, usually in multiple specialties, while 10% perceived surpluses, usually coexisting with shortages. Among deans reporting shortages, 83% described a negative impact on their schools. Recent or planned increases in class size were reported by 27% of deans and expansion capacity by another 34%, but 7% noted recent decreases in class size. Applied generally, these changes in class size could yield 7.6% additional matriculants annually. Conclusions: Physician shortages are prevalent and they are negatively affecting medical schools. Little capacity exists to alleviate these shortages through class size expansion.
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