Free med school won’t solve the doctor shortage

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Free med school won’t solve the doctor shortage
Medical student using tablet computer during lecture

The New York University School of Medicine had recently eliminated tuition for all current and future students in attempt to resolve the challenge of doctor shortage faced by the nation. It is believed that by reducing the immense amount of financial debt will allow more students to seek careers in the medical field. They will also be more inclined to become primary care providers in underprivileged areas. However, student debt is not the real reason for the decline in the number of doctors. According to the latest prediction by the Association of American Medical Colleges, there will be an inadequacy of up to 120,000 doctors by 2030, an increase of approximately 14 percent from 2017. Further,  nearly 60 percent of regions that lack primary care are within the rural region.

At present, most of the med students come from families with higher socioeconomic status; only few come from the rural areas. Wealthier students are not opting for medical studies even though they can afford to and are equipped with the knowledge on the rigors of medical school. On the contrary, the elimination of tuition does not help lower-income students be equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in medical schools. Therefore, while free medical schools may initially benefit those who need it, those of higher SES are prone to return to the urban and suburban where they grew up.

Hence, if the objective is to make careers in medicine possible for disadvantaged students, then relevant stakeholders will have to adjust the educational system so as to better prepare these students for medical school. In addition, if the aim is to rectify the issue of doctor shortage, there are more suitable short term solutions. Further, there is little evidence to demonstrate that student debt deters individuals from pursuing a career in medicine. To attract more of the nation’s talented individuals into medicine and close the gap on doctor shortage, doctors should be empowered to have the freedom to practice medicine without the influence of government.

The issue of doctor shortage can be attributed to the increased administrative burdens which are driving many physicians to call quits. For instance, electronic health records were supposed to make patients records easily shareable among physicians. However, instead, doctors now have more paperwork and less time for their patients. This has resulted in most doctors feeling burned out and/or depressed. Hence, rather than eliminating tuition, America’s philanthropists can look at some combination of expanding the number of medical school slots nationwide, securing more residencies themselves and prompting the federal government to revise its cap on funding for residences. States can also examine the possibility of loosening the scope-of-practice restrictions on nurse practitioners and physician assistants; thereby allowing doctors to have more attention and time in attending most serious cases. Research illustrates that these professional can fulfill some types of primary care more effectively and at lower cost than physicians.

Source: Forbes

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