Many aspiring doctors have been deterred from the medical profession because of the number of years and great expense required to get through medical school, residency, and further training in a specialty.
To give the brightest among those a break, one of the more prestigious medical programs in the U.S. is cutting a year off the first step. New York University is offering a small percentage of students the chance to finish medical school in three years instead of four.
Although the move is raising concern, NYU administrators say they can consolidate the workload by reducing redundancies in their curriculum, adding summer classes, and pushing students into clinical training earlier in their medical school careers.
“We’re confident that our three-year students are going to get the same depth and core knowledge, that we’re not going to turn it into a trade school,” Steven Abramson, vice dean for education, faculty and academic affairs at N.Y.U. School of Medicine told the New York Times.
The three-year program will save students $49,560 a year in tuition and fees, and even more on extra costs like room, board, books, and supplies.
For now, 16 NYU students at the three campuses across the U.S. — about 10 percent of the school’s incoming class — are enrolled in the three-year program, according to the Times.
Students in the three-year program have to take eight weeks of class before entering med school and must stay in the top half of their class academically. If they don’t meet the standards, they will revert to the four-year program.
Educators at the premier med school see this as an upcoming trend. Louisiana State University, for example, has employed a similar trial. Due to budget constraints, however, the trial run has been delayed.
“You’re going to see this kind of three-year pathway become very prominent across the country,” Abramson said.
The potential pros of such a program are alleviating the doctor shortage problem and curtailing student debt, which would encourage students to enroll in less-lucrative specialties, like pediatrics.
However, there are some who consider abbreviated medical school to be a bad idea that would shortchange students of extensive training they absolutely need, while exhausting soon-to-be professionals before they even start their careers.
“The downside is that you are really tired,” said Dr. Dan Hunt, co-secretary of the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting agency for medical schools in the U.S. and Canada.
Another criticism is that there isn’t as much flexibility for students and they will have to make career choices too early. In addition, some residency directors are wary of hiring three-year graduates, fearing they are ill-prepared.
A quarter of medical schools in the U.S. experimented with some type of three-year program in the 1970s, according to a study, but they were quickly abandoned.
Still, NYU is moving forward with the program.
“It’s a profession where you’re learning through your entire life,” said Natalie Smith, a fourth-year medical student at NYU.
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