health policy · MS-2

Med school for free?

Florida medical school’s tuition-free offer

Debt burden is a scary thing.  I’m one of the lucky ones in that I have no debt from undergrad, but every time I fill out a financial aid form, I freak out about how much money I’m going to owe someone one of these days.  With the average med school graduate holding $150k in loans, medical education is a bit of a Faustian bargain.  (Except instead of eternal life, you get eternal … poking at lesions.)

Everyone involved realizes that this sort of debt burden is one of the factors pushing people away from primary care and into things like plastics, dermatology, the “cushy” jobs. It’s gotten to the point where the NY Times ran an article about two-tiered derm practices, complete with separate waiting rooms. (True story!  A friend of mine graduated from med school in India, where internal medicine and pediatrics are the specialties of choice.  She’s looking for residency positions here in the States, and she was utterly baffled when I told her that the best and the brightest of American physicians are falling over themselves to fix acne and hooked noses.)  This summer, I went to at least one “Let’s Reform Health Care!!!11!!” conference every week, where there was much hand-wringing and sighing over the imbalance of physician distribution.

So it’s cool to see that some people — namely the folks over at UCF — are actually doing something about it.  And can I just say that their stipend is phenomenal. Let’s crunch some numbers:

Amount I spend monthly in NYC: about $1000 estimate to maintain same std of living: $572; let’s make that $600 because I like round numbers
Yearly cost-of-living in Orlando: $7200
Yearly stipend for UCF med students: $20,000
Income: $12,800

Seriously? They are essentially paying people to go to school?  That is the sweetest deal I’ve ever seen.

Obviously, there are issues with being the first class through an untested curriculum, but for that kind of money, I’d be willing.  And given the enormous number of applications, it looks like lots of other starving students are too.

It will be interesting to see if this experiment actually pays off; that is, will the UCF students, being free of debt burden, be more likely to go into primary care?  As P.G. Wodehouse’s characters like to say, I shall follow their careers with considerable interest.


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