By Vanessa Obas
AMSA National Health Policy Coordinator
Three-year medical school curriculums have popped up in a few of the 124 medical schools across the country. In a cost-effective approach to medical education, schools, like New York University's School of Medicine have started offering medical school tracks that eliminate the 4th year of training.
In traditional programs, the fourth year is somewhat of a reprieve from the demands and rigor of the early years of medical school. In the time spent outside of interviewing for residency positions, fourth-year medical students explore electives in different specialties. It is of little surprise that the elimination of the 4th year of medical school (and its associated tuition and fees) is appealing considering the average medical school student graduates with $170,000 in debt, according to the AAMC.
Presently, medical school costs continue to rise in face of the increasing need for physicians in primary care, a lower-paying specialty. Thus, three-year programs present a way for students committed to primary care to pursue that career path with less of a financial burden. Still, three-year medical schools cannot solve the problem of the hugely burdensome cost of medical education on new physicians in the US. The rise in three-year programs has brought attention to the larger issue of the rising costs of medical school debts. Instead of trying to solve the problem of rising medical education costs with changes in medical education, perhaps we can seek ways to tackle student debt head-on without sacrificing years of training.