Editorial: New ideas, not just new med schools

Staff Editorial | February 16, 2010
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It’s all about getting accepted.

According to The New York Times, Pitt… It’s all about getting accepted.

According to The New York Times, Pitt alumnus Peter Allen applied to 30 medical schools after graduating and earned only two seats. He enrolled in The Commonwealth Medical College, in Scranton, Pa., one of many in a surge of new medical schools opening up across the nation.

Nearly two dozen schools have opened recently or will open soon. This contrasts with the historically slow establishment of new U.S. medical schools from as far back as the 1960s.

These new schools are seeking to help those qualified students trying their luck at offshore medical schools or giving up completely. The limited number of medical school seats makes for tough competition.

There will be a chilling shortage of doctors by 2025. According to the American Association of American Medical Colleges, which is responsible for accrediting M.D.-granting medical schools, a shortage of 150,000 physicians across all specialties will occur by that year.

The population is increasing and aging, retirement for many older doctors will come soon and changes in health care policy will likely produce a higher percent of medically insured patients. The U.S. needs more doctors, and opening new medical schools is an important step.

However, a more holistic approach is necessary to meet the projected demand for physicians. After medical school, graduates must continue their training and education, and that means more residency slots will be needed. Currently, the amount of residency slots in the United States is more or less stagnant. Increasing the availability of this next destination for young doctors will make the training process more efficient and effective.

Now, these new medical graduates will be competing with international and foreign medical graduates for slots.Currently, these graduates face a 9.25 percent chance of landing a spot in the United States.

The situation premedical students are in now might reflect the type of education America cherishes. Simply the work and drag of likely being required to earn a bachelor’s degree just to apply to medical school causes many to quit the race early. In many foreign countries, from where these foreign graduates hail, the medical education is short, focused and technical as compared to the American and European way.

With limited residency slots and a shift of American students that would have likely attended offshore medical schools attending these new schools, a complementary shift in the demographics of medical school classes will occur. More medical students will be American-born than before.

Tackling the doctor shortage requires a comprehensive effort, a triage of a sort. Still, this trend brings only possible good news to those facing leaving the country for their education. Leaving the country to become a doctor? Now that requires dedication.

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