Earlier this week, Elizabeth Rosenthal , former correspondent of the New York Times, and now the editor in chief of Kaiser Health News, wrote an opinion piece in response to the announcement by New York University’s School of Medicine’s decision to eliminate tuition for all current and future medical students.
Rosenthal, an emergency room doctor who became a journalist, stated that the goal of the free tuition was to eliminate a financial barrier for medical school applicants, and to address a crucial imbalance in the country’s physician work force.
She indicated that research had proven that the burden of medical school debt discourages doctors from going into practices that are poorly paid, such as primary care, or working in places where many patients are on Medicaid.
Rosenthal notes that there is a shortage of doctors working in these areas. Readers will recall that I have posted several articles on the predicted physician shortage. Those articles suggested medical travel could be an alternative solution in workers’ comp cases.
Even though the US has about the same number of doctors for our population as does Canada, Britain, and Japan, Rosenthal noted — American doctors are more likely to be paid more in subspecialties such as orthopedic surgery, rather than primary care.
Rosenthal cites N.Y.U.’s Law School when she points out that the medical school got it wrong as having a better solution.
Instead of making medical school free for everyone, Rosenthal states, N.Y.U., and all medical schools, should waive tuition for those students who commit to work where they are needed most.
The law school is a model and has a program that attracts the best and brightest to the low-wage corners of the legal profession. Students who commit to a career in public service, pay no tuition; those who go to corporate law pay the full amount.
Rosenthal recommends that medical schools should commit to so that students entering medical school, and who are not sure of their path, is to forgive or paying back the loans of doctors who go into lower-paying fields or set up a practice in underserved areas.
The government, she writes, could demand a system from academic medical centers as a precondition for receiving subsidies and payments.
Also, if a doctor chooses to deliver babies in rural Oklahoma or practice pediatrics in the South Side of Chicago, they should keep their salary.
The government, military, and some states already subsidize tuition, or pay back loans in exchange for limited-time service commitments, as my younger brother did when he graduated medical school.
The real goal, Rosenthal says, is to enable and support young doctors who feel that medicine is a calling, not as we know it today — as a means to get to the top 1 percent.
As the idea for free tuition for public colleges and universities is debated, doing so for medical school will alleviate the predicted physician shortage, allow more lower income minority students to attend without debt hanging over them when they graduate, and will improve the health of those in underserved and poorer neighborhoods.
That will likely impact the overall cost of health care as more people can see a doctor in their neighborhood, and not in an emergency room.
P.S. I am a graduate of N.Y.U.’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and took out loans that were paid back more than ten years later. Perhaps one day, that will also be a thing of the past.