Free Tuition and Accelerated Three-Year Pathway Should Be Standard

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You must have heard the news on Thursday of last week. I mean, I have barely recovered from the shock I subsequently experienced after reading the headlines. “Surprise Gift: Free Tuition for All NYU Medical Students.” Wow! I am at a loss for words! What an amazing miracle for these students. I cannot imagine a better gift in my lifetime. NYU is correct in citing concerns about the overwhelming financial debt facing graduates. I am living proof of the burdensome, endless amount of financial strain that medical training creates. Perhaps you already read about my large, negative net worth.

I must admit that even though I am incredibly excited and happy for this incoming class of NYU medical students, I also feel a hint of envy. Maybe more than a hint. I am incredibly jealous that they do not have to face the hardship financially that I will carry with me for 20+ years. It is important to point out that schools are worried that students are pursuing top-paying specialties rather than what I chose: Pediatrics. This fear is valid, and I often imagine what life would be like if I had pursued an alternate path in a surgical specialty. It is obvious that I did not base my decisions on financial reward, but I strongly believe that many others (smartly) do.

Not only should other medical schools follow suit and find ways to cover the cost of tuition for medical schools, but also medical education should be shortened. Guess which institution offers an accelerated three-year MD degree pathway? Oh, that’s right: NYU again. My entire fourth year of medical school, other than my two away rotations and my sub-internship, was pretty worthless. That’s right, I said it. I essentially just wasted time on electives and selectives that allowed me the most free time outside of the hospital after a grueling year demanding 13-hour and 24-hour shifts. Imagine if medical school was three years instead of four! That means schools would only have to raise enough to cover three years of tuition for each student and students would graduate one year earlier, so maybe by the time training ended they wouldn’t already be 35 years old.

I firmly believe that NYU School of Medicine is breaking ground and setting the example for how medical education should be structured…. and no, they didn’t pay me to write this. I hope that my medical school, Jefferson, follows suit soon along with many others. Graduating debt free in three years with the freedom to choose any specialty regardless of financial compensation is heart-rending in a positive way.

Cherilyn Cecchini, MD is a Pediatrician and a 2018–2019 Doximity Author.

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