Have you heard any good news lately? If you read any major publication on August 16, 2018, you are likely to have encountered tales of “Omarosa”, the censure of John Brennan or our tragic loss of music icon, Aretha Franklin. In those same publications, you might have missed the story—which, to the credit of some major publications was covered—about free medical education. Yes, free.
On Thursday, August 16th, New York University announced that “it will cover tuition for all its medical students regardless of their financial situation”. NYU (among others) is concerned that the cost of tuition and the resultant student debt has begun to dissuade talented individuals from entering the medical profession, opting instead for more lucrative careers that can reasonably offset their educational expenditures. Attempting to abort a shortage of medical professionals, NYU has raised more than $450 million to fund the announced educational scholarships. You can read the full story in the Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal, ABC News website, US News & World Report and others.
In these times when the news tends toward gloom and doom, take a moment to rejoice that at least some institutions and individuals are genuinely trying to help. Some are actually working to improve rather than dominate our lives. To the extent that such is true, that is indeed Good News.
This notion of free (medical) education might seem startlingly original. However, it does not come out of the blue. In December 2017, after a gift of $250 million from Dr. P. Roy Vagelos and his wife, Diana, Columbia University began to underwrite its financial aid program such that students with the greatest need receive full-tuition scholarships.
While medical doctor is one of the highest paid professions in the country, at the same time newly graduated doctors finish school owing as much as $155,000. Approximately 86% of new doctors carry substantial debt. As such, as early as, May of 2011, an article appeared in the New York Times proposing free tuition for medical education. The goal, of course is not to generate more highly paid individuals, but to improve our healthcare with professionals less dependent on income to repay outstanding debt. A less than obvious benefit could be that more doctors will choose the somewhat less lucrative yet more publically beneficial focus of primary care rather than opting for higher paying fields of specializations.