New study shows more women than men entering medical school; UND's numbers about even

Ciciley Littlewolf, a second-year medical student at UND’s School of Medicine & Health Sciences, is part of the Indians Into Medicine program, which assists American Indian students from middle school through medical school. Littlewolf is originally from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in southeastern Montana. (Photo by Jackie Lorentz / UND Today)

A new study from the Association of American Medical Colleges shows women now represent a majority of medical school students, while underrepresented groups continue modest increases.

Women today make up 50.5% of the nation's medical students, a number that has continually risen over the past five years. At UND’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the statistics are similar: 157 men and 145 women are enrolled, for a 52%-48% ratio.

“The medical community is benefiting tremendously by having more women in medicine and then also nursing has been focused on trying to increase the numbers of men in nursing,” said Dr. Don Warne, director of UND’s Indians Into Medicine program and associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. “I think it's wonderful when we kind of take away the gender stereotypes of various occupations and see gender diversity across the board. I think that for each generation coming up, it’s wonderful to see many more opportunities in terms of career options that are not kind of put into one gender box or another, but much more open and inclusive.”

Joshua Wynne, dean of the UND medical school and interim president of the university, remembers a time when the ratio for young doctors leaned heavily toward men. Now, as the split is about even, he said it shows the "progress that we've made in this country.”

“I think everyone is thrilled by the announcement of the AAMC," he said. "It is a noteworthy accomplishment.”


Warne said one of the biggest challenges for UND’s medical school is that North Dakota itself is not necessarily a diverse state.

Of the approximately 300 students in the program, roughly 250 -- or 83% -- are white. The second largest group in the UND program includes students with American Indian heritage, while students with Asian heritage make up the third largest group. It roughly mirrors North Dakota's population.

In addition to gender and race diversity, the university also focuses on recruiting students from rural parts of the state.

“When we look at the need for health services in North Dakota, we have several populations that are significantly underserved,” Warne said. “ If we look at the part of the mission of a state medical school, it is to supply physicians, particularly to meet needs within the state. We tend to see more shortages in rural and tribal areas in North Dakota. So that's why we have targeted programs, like (Indians Into Medicine) for working with tribal nations, and the Center for Rural Health and then the (Rural Opportunities in Medical Education) program.”

The INMED program is a comprehensive education program assisting American Indian students who are preparing for health careers. That program addresses three major problem areas: too few health professionals in American Indian communities, too few American Indian Health professionals, and a substandard level of health and health care in American Indian communities. UND is the leader in American Indian health education in the country.

The ROME program is a 24- to 28-week interdisciplinary experience in a rural primary care setting, open to third-year students at the UND medical school.

Students live and train in non-metropolitan communities under the supervision of physician preceptors. ROME students experience health care delivery in rural areas throughout the state, where providing access to health care is sometimes challenging, according to the university’s website.

The AAMC study also found that interest in medical careers remains high in the United States, even as the nation faces a projected shortage of up to 122,000 physicians by 2032. The number of applicants to medical schools rose by 1.1%, to a record 53,371, and the number of matriculants grew by 1.1%, to 21,869, the study said.


Since 2002 medical schools have seen significant growth in applicants, by 58%; matriculants, up 32%; and enrollment, up 33%. Those increases have been credited in part to the opening of 20 new medical schools in the past decade and increases in class sizes, the study said.

Although the numbers of applicants and matriculants grew among women in 2019, the number of male applicants and matriculants declined.

Those enrolling in medical school in 2019 showed commitment to academic achievement and community service, according to the study. The average undergraduate GPA stood at 3.78 in 2019, compared with 3.72 last year. Matriculants also logged more than 14 million community service hours, more than the 12.5 million collective hours reported last year.

Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.

For story pitches contact her at or call her at 701-780-1134.
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