It is great news to learn that two Medical Schools are in the forefront of alleviating the financial burden that graduating doctors face.
There will be much relief from the stress-- psychological, emotional and physical-- that nearly all medical school graduates now face to repay their massive student loans.
Yet much criticism has been leveled at the NYU Medical School plan to offer free tuition to all students regardless of need.
No doubt, this will alleviate the burden placed upon those students who have decided to enter the field of family medicine, a low- paying specialty in which the shortage of doctors will escalate into the tens of thousand in the next decade. These newly minted doctors will be able to focus more easily on their patients from the get go as they are free from debt.
But how about motivating other undecided students to enter these fields that will experience shortages?
Would it not be better to condition the awarding of full scholarships to those students who commit to become primary care specialists (long live the 'GP') and let the rest pay according to need?
On the other hand, the Columbia Physicians and Surgeons plan is more equitable in that it levels the field for all students. Given the fact, that there is plenty of assistance to cover all its medical students, those truly in great need receive a full scholarship and the rest get tuition grants according to family income.
After all, the latter group's families are in a position to contribute to their children's education. So why shouldn't they pay their fair share?
Doesn't this sound fair and equitable?
Consider, that under the Columbia plan there are also no incentives to get student commitments for the primary care fields.
Looking to the future, there are several factors to keep in mind: first, these two medical schools have only just last year instituted these changes and it will perhaps take a decade or longer to evaluate results.
Secondly, Columbia and NYU represent just two of over 140 accredited Medical Schools across the country. (Perhaps the success of the these two programs will inspire other philanthropists and the
US government to fund scholarships to other medical schools)
And, finally, what influence and catalyst, if any, will these innovative programs provide in developing and training students to be patient-centered empathetic health care givers?
To follow and join this conversation, please tune in to my next series of articles.