Officials with the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine say they have the kind of dilemma most schools would envy - a record number of students applying for this year's class.
A total of 5,235 students applied for a slot in the class starting medical school this month, up 24 percent from a year earlier.
In addition, secondary applications, which are sent to students the school is interested in, came in from 2,920 students. That's an increase of 28 percent from a year earlier.
At a meeting of the USF Board of Trustees Health Workgroup on Thursday, USF Health Senior Vice President, Doctor Charles Lockwood, said the medical school's planned new location in downtown Tampa could be a reason for the increased interest - albeit a small one.
"I suspect that the downtown move may have had something to do with it, just the positive publicity, but you know, I think it is a reflection of a buzz that's been created about the programs we're developing here," Lockwood said.
Lockwood also highlighted the quality of the candidates, including USF's med school applicants posting an average score of 32.59 on their MCAT exams, the standardized test for the study of medicine.
That was an increase from 31 a year earlier, and USF earned the top score among state medical programs. The University of Florida came in second in the MCAT exam average score at 32.2. USF's score would place in the top 10 percent of all applicants nationwide, officials said.
Lockwood added that the challenge with such a group of high-performing applicants becomes picking around 340 students to offer slots to. Not all those accepted will accept USF's offer and choose other schools - USF had 170 students admitted to the college last year.
"The demand for incredibly well prepared, very very bright physicians has never been greater in the history of medicine, so we do need to be selective and we need to take the best and brightest," Lockwood said. "Obviously we favor Florida students, because that's our job, but we're not having a problem getting the applicants, that's for sure."
The school wants to defer some of the cost for the students' education. In addition to indicating tuition rates will be frozen again, Lockwood said USF Health has raised over $93,000 in funds for scholarships so far this year.
The school's new $157 million, 11-story building, in downtown Tampa would also host the USF Health Heart Institute.
Plans for the facility, one of the cornerstones of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's planned $1 billion redevelopment of the Channelside district, are proceeding on schedule. Lockwood said if things continue on pace, they should be moving into a new building there by December 2019.
USF President Judy Genshaft will present an update on the facility to the state Board of Governors at its next meeting September 2-3 in Gainesville.