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The face of today's doctor: Getting older, more women, and other demographic changes

The Association of the American Medical Colleges released a report that offers more insight on the nation’s physician workforce.

The physician workforce is getting older, more women are becoming doctors, and specialties such as sports medicine are increasingly popular.

Those are some of the highlights of new data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. The AAMC’s 2022 Physicians Specialty Data Report offers a snapshot of the nation’s physicians and those training to be doctors. The AAMC releases the report every two years.

Here are some of the key takeaways.

55 and over

Nearly half (46.7%) of the nation’s active doctors are 55 years old or older, up from 44.9% in 2019, according to AAMC’s data. More than 9 out of 10 (92.4%) pulmonary diseases physicians are 55 or older, while 71% of preventive medicine are at least 55.

Women

Women make up more than one-third (37.1%) of the physician workforce, up from 30.4% in 2012, according to the AAMC data. On another encouraging note, women make up more than half of all students in the nation’s medical schools.

Women account for nearly two out of three doctors in pediatrics (65%) and well over half of all physicians in obstetrics and gynecology (60.5%) and geriatric medicine (55.1%).

But women make up only a slim number of physicians in some surgical specialties, such as neurology (9.6%), thoracic surgery (8.3%) and orthopedic surgery (5.9%).

Specialties

More doctors are getting into sports medicine. Sports medicine witnessed the biggest growth (42%) from 2015 through 2021, followed by pediatric anesthesiology (37.7%) and interventional cardiology (32.6%).

On the flip side, orthopedic surgery saw a drop of 3.7%. Other specialities seeing a dip included radiology (a 2.4% decline) and general surgery (a drop of 2.2%).

Diversity

For the first time, the AAMC report includes data on race and ethnicity, and some minority groups are underrepresented.

Nearly two-thirds of all doctors (63.9%) identified as white, while 20.6% identified as Asian.

Only 6.9% of doctors identified as Hispanic (regardless of race), while 5.7% identified as Black or African American. Less than 1% identified themselves as American Indian or Alaska Native (0.3%) or Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander (0.1%).

Residents and fellows

The specialties with the most first-year Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education graduates were internal medicine (11,297), family medicine/general practice (4,856), and pediatrics (3,143).

In 2021, women accounted for 47.3% of the residents and fellows in ACGME-accredited programs.

Between 2016 and 2021, sports medicine and psychiatry saw the biggest uptick in first-year residents and fellows, with gains of 27% and 26% respectively.

This article originally appeared on Medical Economics®.