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Monday, October 7, 2013

Three year medical school

File:Seattle physician with patient 1999.jpg
Doctors with patient, 1999
From Seattle Municipal Archives.
Steven Abramson and his colleagues from the New York University School of Medicine (NYUSOM) have a suggestion for changing medical education: let students finish in three years rather than four.
At first glance, this seems like an odd proposal. Nowadays, it’s hard to believe young doctors can cram everything they need to learn into four short years, let alone three. That’s because they can’t. New doctors routinely spend a decade refining their craft in residencies and fellowships after graduation. Therefore, reducing the time at medical school will have little impact on future doctors’ overall education. It will, on the other hand, dramatically decrease their student debt load, which currently averages well over $100,000.

The authors don’t intend to fast track all medical students, just the top of the class. In a pilot study, a group of 16 overachievers (a quarter of them already had Ph.D.s or Master’s degrees) were admitted to a three-year pathway at NYUSOM. If things work out, the researchers predict that many schools will begin offering these programs. In one model, students will be able to choose whether to complete a fourth year of medical school or skip it and go straight to a residency.

I don't like the idea of having prospective doctors skip a year of training just for monetary reasons, though I sympathize with those who have to pay those enormous bills. However, medical educators argue that the fourth year of medical school is not critical. I'd be interested to hear what doctors think of this.

Steven B. Abramson, Dianna Jacob, Melvin Rosenfeld, Lynn Buckvar-Keltz, Victoria Harnik, Fritz Francois, Rafael Rivera, Mary Ann Hopkins, Marc Triola, & Robert I. Grossman (2013). A 3-Year M.D. — Accelerating Careers, Diminishing Debt The New England Journal of Medicine (369), 1085-1087 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1304681.

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