Changing Admission Procedures
The case of Regents of the University of California v. Allan Bakke now being decided by the Supreme Court is the most visible sign of the current ferment in American medical education. In challenging the constitutionality of affirmative action admissions programs, the Bakke case also illuminates the complex process of medical school admissions and the consequences of who is and who is not admitted. Those consequences extend throughout the entire American medical profession.
One major issue is the fate of the large numbers of apparently well-qualified college graduates who cannot get into U.S. medical schools. Many enroll abroad and try to return here. But transferring into American medical schools is highly competitive and comparatively few are able to complete their education in the United States. The rest are left to finish their studies abroad, at schools that generally are inferior to American institutions, in the hope of being admitted to practice in the United States. Foreign-educated doctors, both immigrants and returning Americans, account for 22 per cent of the physicians in this country, according to the American Medical Association's most recent figures
The large number of foreign-educated doctors in the United States indicates to many observers that American medical schools have not turned out enough graduates—or perhaps not enough in certain branches of medicine—to meet this country's health-care needs. It is further asserted that a minimal supply of doctors, together with the medical schools' emphasis on specialty training, has contributed to the fast rise in the nation's medical costs. The medical profession, on the other hand, sees the possibility of an oversupply of doctors in the years ahead. Shortage or surfeit, whichever it is, medical schools are at the center of these arguments.