NYU’s med­i­cal school tu­ition ex­per­i­ment

NYU tu­ition gift a boon for di­ver­sity, fam­ily docs

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Derek Daniel Re­for­mat Derek Daniel Re­for­mat, a plas­tic sur­geon and an in­struc­tor in surgery at Har­vard Med­i­cal School, is a 2010 grad­u­ate of the NYU School of Medicine.

Cur­rent doc­tors de­bate the merit of giv­ing stu­dents a free ride

New York Univer­sity School of Medicine re­cently an­nounced it is award­ing full tu­ition schol­ar­ships to all of its cur­rent and fu­ture M.D. can­di­dates.

NYU is cer­tainly at the fore­front of a cul­tural change in how we de­liver health care, and for the bet­ter. The num­ber of un­der­rep­re­sented mi­nori­ties and peo­ple from a lower so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus en­rolled in such schools will surely in­crease be­cause of the change. And more doc­tors might choose to go into, in­stead of shy­ing away from, lower pay­ing and un­der­filled spe­cial­ties such as in­ter­nal or fam­ily medicine or pe­di­atrics.

I’m proud to say I stud­ied at the first ma­jor Amer­i­can med­i­cal school to of­fer full tu­ition for all of its stu­dents.

The NYU schol­ar­ships will be paid for by an en­dow­ment con­sist­ing of phil­an­thropic do­na­tions, many from for­mer grad­u­ates. I was for­tu­nate to ben­e­fit from such a fund called the Brienza Schol­ar­ship, but this cov­ered only a small frac­tion of my tu­ition.

Eighty-six per­cent of med­i­cal grad­u­ates like me are in debt. I en­vi­sion that it will be years be­fore many grad­u­ates, es­pe­cially re­cent ones with in­creas­ingly higher lev­els of debt, will have suf­fi­cient funds or de­sire to con­trib­ute while still re­pay­ing med­i­cal school bills. As a re­sult of this de­ci­sion, I would ex­pect an in­crease in vol­un­tary do­na­tions from proud and ap­pre­cia­tive grad­u­ates from any med­i­cal school that doesn’t charge tu­ition.

Most med­i­cal stu­dents can al­ready be be­hind $228,000 in life­time earn­ings by grad­u­a­tion, com­pared with for­mer un­der­grad­u­ate class­mates who en­tered the work­force right away.

The rel­a­tively low salary of a res­i­dent physi­cian, usu­ally $50,000 to $60,000 per year, in­ten­si­fies the prob­lem of debt re­pay­ment, be­cause many loans be­gin ac­cru­ing in­ter­est af­ter grace pe­ri­ods that are usu­ally shorter than the length of res­i­dency. These fac­tors could lead to push­ing other life mat­ters into the fu­ture.

Per­haps the most pre­cious cur­rency ex­pended on med­i­cal school (and res­i­dency) is time it­self. Tra­di­tion­ally, it will take at least seven years to be­come a board-el­i­gi­ble physi­cian af­ter col­lege, with many hours spent study­ing or in the hospi­tal. The hours are nec­es­sary to ac­quire the train­ing to be­come a com­pe­tent physi­cian. But this pre­cious time is most com­monly spent dur­ing the third and fourth decades of life, ar­guably the most pro­duc­tive pe­riod not just pro­fes­sion­ally but also per­son­ally.

NYU, among other med­i­cal schools, has re­duced its cur­ricu­lum from four to three years for some stu­dents. This is not as well pub­li­cized as the tu­ition gift, but look­ing to the fu­ture, it could be just as im­por­tant to cur­rent and fu­ture med­i­cal stu­dents.

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