Jan 15, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

If you’re a current medical student or thinking about applying in the year ahead you may be wondering the same thing: What does the future hold for medical students? Here’s a closer look at five trends to expect moving forward.

1. Admissions will remain difficult.

No one ever said that getting into medical school was easy, and it’s not going to get any easier.

According to the most recent data from U.S. News & World Report, the average acceptance rate for medical school hovers around 5.8 percent in the U.S. At the country’s 10 most competitive medical schools, meanwhile, this number drops to 2.6 percent.

Which begs the question: What is the admittance rate at the hardest school to get into? A staggering 1.8 percent: Just 86 of 4,802 applicants got in at 2016-2017.

Even schools with comparatively “high” acceptance rates reported staggeringly low numbers. Specifically, just 14 percent of applicants were admitted to the medical school with the most favorable acceptance rates.

While this doesn’t mean that getting into medical school is impossible, it does mean considering different strategies when applying. Experts recommend applying to D.O. programs as well as M.D. programs. Attentionally, boosting your application through tactics including everything from shining up your social media presence to presenting yourself as a more holistically appealing candidate can help you gain the inside edge.

2. “Balance” will be big.

The American Medical Association Council on Long Range Planning and Development’s Medical Education: Health Care Trends 2016-2017 Edition,  reveals a movement toward work-life balance among millennials.  Says AMA Wire of the AMA report, “Those who choose careers in medicine, it says, will select specialities with less demanding training and time requirements.”

In other words, just as medical schools are looking for more balanced students, so are students looking for more balanced experiences -- both while in medical and in their future careers, as well.

3. Health care policy will continue to be a critical issue -- not just for patients, but for medical students.

Healthcare has been a hot-button issue in recent years, and the debate isn’t stopping anytime soon, say experts. Contends Northwell Health’s report on critical health care trends for 2018, “Given the health care provisions in the proposed tax bill and potential future action with the ACA, there are serious implications for states across the country. The confusion surrounding Medicaid and other joint federal-state partnerships has discombobulated state budgets, and it is patients who will ultimately face the harshest consequences if states are forced to slash funding for health care.”

While patients may bear the brunt of cuts, doctors and hospitals are on the frontlines of the fight. Which may explain why many experts are calling for medical schools to amp up health policy education. Suggests KevinMD.com of the role of medical students in health care policy, “Our healthcare system isn’t our politicians’.  It’s ours, to make or break.”

4. The opioid crisis will take center stage.

In identifying the opioid epidemic as one if its 12 Defining Healthcare Trends to Watch in 2018, Hit Consultant Media says, “Opioid overdoses are now the leading cause of death for US adults younger than 50. This is a phenomenon too big to solve by only one player – there is a role for everyone across the healthcare landscape, from prescribers, to payers, to the pharmaceutical industry, in order to reverse this trend.”

Not only are medical schools introducing more programs aimed at curbing opioid use, but medical students are demanding better training. In fact, at Harvard Medicine School, students organized their own training regarding how to use new medication to treat addiction.

5. Expect more movement on the #metoo front.

While Hollywood may have been the most prominent sector rocked by the #Meetoo movement, medical schools are far from exempt -- which is hardly a surprise, given the field’s long-time status as a men’s club. Today, more students are calling out the behavior, along with attempting to address it, including with the debut of SystemicDisease,com, which not only raises awareness about pervasive bias in medicine, but also provides an outlet for shared stories.

Proposes Kathleen Raven in Yale School of Medicine, “With the momentum of the #metoo movement, the medical profession has a huge opportunity to bring harassment out of an acute phase and toward incremental, but permanent, healthy changes for the better.”

The takeaway? While medical school may be hard to get into (and hard to stay in, too!), this is an especially exciting time to be in medicine. Those looking for the chance not only to practice medicine, but also to have a positive impact on the field of medicine at large will find themselves well-positioned to do so in the coming years.

Read more about medical school and healthcare studies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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