An article about medical school in Public Radio International recently caught our attention. The author writes that New York University, along with a group of other medical schools will start offering select students the option of completing medical school in only three years, instead of the traditional four year curriculum.
The article quotes Art Caplan, director of medical ethics at NYU. ”You have two years of basic science at nearly every medical school. Then two years of clinical rotations; you dip into surgery, you see pediatrics, you get a sense of the different sub-specialties of medicine in the last two years,” he said.
“If you can get that down maybe to a years worth of work and keep the clinical activities as they are, I think you’re going to be able to get the smartest and the best of the medical school class to push through — going summers, starting a little bit early in the three years,” he said.
“It costs about $300,000 and more to get out of medical school given the tuition costs over four years,” he said. “If you can take some of that weight off the back of a medical student I think you’re going to see more people being able to go into a broader set of specialties.”
“You’re probably talking about $60,000 in tuition, room and board and books and all the rest of it — saved out of that $300,000 cost,” he said.
NYU will select about 10 percent of its incoming class to try out the new three-year curriculum. The school will monitor those students and measure their success before deciding whether to expand the program. One of the key measures of success will be whether those students are admitted to the residency programs they want to attend.
While the program sounds good on the surface, we’re not convinced it is better for students in the long run. One potential drawback will be preparation for the USMLE Step 1 exam, which extensively tests students’ knowledge of the basic medical sciences learned in the first 2 years. It remains to be seen if students who spend less time in those sciences can excel on the exam. Another drawback is the added stress placed on students to start earlier and work through summers. Medical students are already prone to burnout without this added burden. We’re also skeptical of the claimed financial benefit. If students will be required to start earlier and go through summers, will they still be able to reap the benefits of tuition savings? We doubt the university will offer these extended sessions for students at no cost to them. What are your thoughts on this new program? Let us know in the comments below!