BIDDEFORD (AP) -Maine’s only medical school received slightly more applications in 2003 than last year, reversing a four-year decline and mirroring a national pattern.

The University of New England received 1,865 applications for 120 openings in this year’s first-year medical school class, a slight increase from last year’s 1,845.

A 30 percent drop in applicants over the past four years raised concerns for the medical community but was in line with a national trend.

Nationwide, applications at American medical schools dropped 22 percent from 1997 to 2002, according to the American Medical Association.

Stephen Shannon, dean of the UNE College of Osteopathic Medicine, attributed the application growth to a weak national economy that makes graduate school a more appealing avenue to some. He said he expects 10 to 15 percent more applicants next year.

Early data collected by the Association of American Medical Schools shows that medical school applications increased by about 6 percent in 2003, the first increase in six years.

Shannon said the reasons for the long decline in medical school applications are likely linked to concerns about the profession at large, including increasing liability.

“There are concerns about health care in this country,” Shannon said. “It didn’t used to be risky.”

But Dr. Robert Jones, AAM’s vice president for medical school services and studies, linked the decline in applications to the temporary appeal of jobs in technology, such as the now sputtering dot-com field.

“I think medicine is still a very attractive profession,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to be of service to others.”

Even during the decline, “We were very pleased with the quality of applicants,” Shannon said.

AP-ES-09-16-03 1146EDT

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