In the event that you are looking for some reading over the holidays, we highly recommend the annual Medical Education issue (12/6/2016) of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). You can listen to the Editor's Audio Summary by Robert M. Golub, MD, Deputy Editor of JAMA or read full articles using the online JAMA reader app.
The U.S experienced a surge in the number of medical schools being built during the ‘60s and ‘70s that were followed by a sharp fall in that number during the two decades between the '80s and 2000 when only one medical school was built. Insufficient federal support provided little incentive to found new medical schools leading to a two decade period of nearly static medical school enrollment rates. The New England Journal of Medicine attributed this slump to a physician surplus (in 1990 the U.S had 238 active physicians per 100,000 citizens although only 138 per 100,000 were estimated to be required), but the doctor shortage we are faced with today has necessitated new medical school development.
Recently we've spoken to students and medical school administrators who say that attendance and participation in medical school classrooms are on the decline. With fewer students participating, providing interactive and thought-provoking lectures has become more difficult. This begs the question: why, with tuition rates and inter-class competition on the rise, are some students opting out of attending class? The answer is simple—they believe that they can perform better in their classes and on board exams while studying independently. The wide availability of pass/fail courses in medical schools has given students the liberty of studying on their own and they agree overwhelmingly that it is more efficient. With lecture slides, podcasts and course materials readily available online, students can often access all the materials necessary to pass their courses without even attending class, so why bother? Some students view the classroom as an obstacle as opposed to a practical tool.