Back in 2011, 86,181 people took the MCAT. 1
According to Kaplan, there were 52,550 applications to med schools in 2015.2
From my observations, it’s hard to imagine that the number of students preparing to go to medical school has changed significantly in the past two years. And even generously assuming that half the applicants are coming from a working background, that leaves anywhere between 25,000 and 43,000 individuals who spend a consider amount of time preparing for medical school.
The norm these days is to take 1 or 2 years after undergraduate graduation to prepare for medical school applications. According to the Crimson, the Harvard newspaper, the number of students applying after a gap year has increased from 40% in 2004 to 65% in 2015.3 And my experience with several Ivy League type graduates in recent years has been that the 2 year gap is becoming much more the norm.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking time to figure out one’s life decision. But I propose that humanity could gain a huge amount of talented man hours if those years were put towards something else. It is very common for premed students to spend a large amount of their time with doctor shadowing and medical scribing. While these are good activities to get some insight into the daily lives of being a medical doctor, I don’t believe that it is the best way for these students to spend their time.
These college graduates, with degrees in biology, chemistry, public health, etc. are well equipped to contribute to the global pursuit of science and fight the inefficiencies of medical market for medicine and for health care.
Let’s assume the lowest, 25,000 people with 1 year of free time. That means about 40*48 = 1920 man hours per person per year. This means about 48,000,000 man hours for the year! Given that 10,000 hours per person per activity has been demonstrated to create expertise, could we assume that 48 million hours would create a huge amount of value?
Why do these young people provide virtually free labor for the inadequate hospital scene? Medical care is riddled with inefficiencies, old computing systems, poor logistics. If altruism was the goal, free labor to help improve these processes rather than become a part of it should be the task.
The greatest advantage to students of joining a lab, conducting experiments, starting a health care startup, or doing gainful employeement is that it opens doors, not close them.