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September 16, 1961

Some Comments on the Predicted Future Shortage of Physicians

Author Affiliations


From the Department of Economic Research, American Medical Association. Dr. Meerman is now from the Department of Economics, Washington State University, Pullman, Wash.

JAMA. 1961;177(11):793-799. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.73040370025015

RECENTLY numerous publications have warned of an expected future shortage of physicians. A typical assertion is that of the Johns Hopkins Magazine, namely that there will be a grave deficit of physicians by 1975 unless the medical schools "increase their output of physicians by 50 per cent—graduating 11,000 students annually instead of the present 7,400."1U. S. News and World Report states: "President Eisenhower's Commission on National Goals... calls for a 50 per cent increase in medical school enrollments by 1970."2

The desirability of expanding the physician population is unquestioned. For several reasons, I am convinced that a considerable increase in the number of United States physicians is desirable. Nevertheless the usual conclusions concerning predicted need and optimal supply reflect erroneous reasoning. The above predictions involve 2 key elements, the physician-population ratio and the predicted future population. As I hope to show, not only are ratios

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