There are now 953,695 actively licensed physicians in US, according to physician census

By Al Saint Jacques, MDLinx
Published July 24, 2017

Key Takeaways

Female physicians now account for approximately one-third of all actively licensed physicians in the United States, according to the newly released "2016 Census of Actively Licensed Physicians in the United States" published by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). The census, released every two years in the Journal of Medical Regulation, uses data received by the FSMB from the nation's state medical and osteopathic licensing boards.

Some of the key findings of the 2016 census include:

  • The total population of licensed physicians has increased by 12% since 2010, growing from 850,085 actively licensed physicians in 2010 to 953,695 in 2016;
  • From 2010 to 2016, the actively licensed US physician-to-population ratio increased from 277 physicians per 100,000-population to 295 physicians per 100,000-population;
  • The number of actively licensed physicians who are doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) increased by 39% between 2010 and 2016, compared with a 10% increase in the number of medical doctors (MDs) during the same time period;
  • Female physicians now account for one-third of all actively licensed physicians. In 2010, 30% were female, rising to 34% in 2016;
  • The number of US citizens who graduated from Caribbean medical schools increased by 95% since 2010. In 2010, there were 11,037 actively licensed physicians who were US citizen Caribbean medical graduates and in 2016 there are 21,519.

"In these times, it is important that policy makers, medical regulators, and consumers have unbiased, accurate data with which to make educated decisions on health care," said Humayun Chaudhry, DO, MACP, President and CEO of the FSMB.

"Many parts of our country are feeling the effects of an increasing physician shortage," said Gregory B. Snyder, MD, Chair of the FSMB Board of Directors. "The wealth of data that this census provides can play a significant role in understanding the needs of our health care workforce and help to identify areas in which we can innovate and expand access to care."

In a national survey of the state medical board executives done by the FSMB in 2016, the boards ranked what they considered the five most important topics to the regulatory community. The two top ranked issues included telemedicine and opioid prescribing. These were followed by the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, physician reentry to practice, and medical marijuana.

There are many other topics that are covered in the 2016 Census including the health care reform debate, changes in physician demographics, changes in various types of practitioners, as well as a wealth of other types of data.

The biennial census was first conducted in 2010, and again in 2012 and 2014. Combined, these censuses demonstrate a growing and more diverse physician population than ever before.

To view the full 2016 census, including infographics, methodology, and discussion, please click here.

About the Federation of State Medical Boards

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) is a national non-profit organization representing all medical boards within the United States and its territories that license and discipline allopathic and osteopathic physicians and, in some jurisdictions, other health care professionals. The FSMB serves as the voice for state medical boards, supporting them through education, assessment, research and advocacy while providing services and initiatives that promote patient safety, quality health care and regulatory best practices. To learn more about FSMB, visit You can also follow FSMB on Twitter (@theFSMB).

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