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As applications to medical school are on the rise nationally, the Yale School of Medicine has witnessed an increase in the number of its applicants for the fifth straight year.

With 34,064 prospective candidates, applications are up 4.2 percent from last year. But while the number of women applicants to medical schools around the country outnumbered their male applicants for the first time, the Yale School of Medicine did not follow the national trend, receiving 48 percent of its applications from women.

Across the nation, 17,672 women applied to medical schools, marking a seven percent increase from last year. Yale’s increase in applications is slightly above the national increase of 3.4 percent for the 2003-2004 school year, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, or AAMC. The organization claims the national increase is driven by a rise in female applicants and that the increase will continue for the 2004-2005 school year.

But Richard Silverman, director of Yale School of Medicine admissions, said the small increase in applications is not a significant change.

“Whether applications go up or down a few percentage points is not likely to make a difference in any substantive way,” Silverman said. “What’s important is the depth and quality of the applicant pool, which is pretty spectacular, which is what’s really exciting about the year.”

Silverman said the more interesting statistic is that School of Medicine applications have risen 40 percent in the last four years, in contrast with national statistics of decline in recent years. Silverman attributed the increase largely to the medical school’s adoption of the American Medical College Application Service, or AMCAS, the national application service for all medical schools.

“From 1999 to the present, the applications to the medical school are up 40.2 percent,” said Silverman. “We went from 24,070 in 1999, up quickly after that, and the current number for 2004 is 34,064. That change — runs counter to the national trends.”

While the number of medical school applications processed through Undergraduate Career Services, or UCS, has remained constant at 200 or 225, more Yale alumni and female undergraduates applied to medical schools nationally than ever before, said Edward Miller, Director of the Health Professions Advisory Program at UCS.

Silverman said this change began several years ago when women first began applying to medical school.

“Anybody — could plot the numbers of male and female applicants, and would see that the two lines were going to cross this year,” Silverman said. “There are a few more women than men, but it’s not a dramatic change. They’ve been close for many years — The real changes occurred some years ago, when suddenly the applications from women were starting go up. Right now it’s more of the same.”

Silverman said according to national trends, women’s applications will very possibly continue to rise in coming years.

“Are the linear projections going to continue so that a few years from now we won’t have any men applying?” Silverman said. “The answer is of course no, but when it’s going to level off, if it’s going to level off, is hard to say.”

Since 2001, women have composed a majority of students entering Yale School of Medicine, despite the fact that more men have applied. Silverman also said a significant proportion of Yale School of Medicine students did not attend medical school immediately after college.

“More than half of our students in the current student body did not come to the medical school straight from college,” Silverman said. “It’s tricky to characterize the student body these days because it’s so diverse. But it’s definitely getting a little older and a little more female.”