Many students considering careers in medicine find themselves weighing the significant financial burden it imposes—and often decide on another life path. NYU School of Medicine’s pioneering three-year MD pathway, launched in 2013, helps keep talented aspiring doctors on course. The accelerated curriculum—the first of its kind among medical schools—allows select students to skip the fourth year entirely, saving a year’s worth of tuition fees and housing costs. It also offers them a guaranteed residency spot in the specialty of their choice at NYU Langone Health. “Many new doctors begin their careers with more debt than a typical mortgage,” notes Rafael Rivera, MD, associate dean for admission and financial aid. “We have an obligation to help alleviate that burden.”
The potential benefits of accelerated study are substantial. By shortening their stay in medical school, students not only save tens of thousands of dollars in tuition fees and housing costs, but also launch their careers one year earlier—no small advantage considering that for some doctors, the path to practice extends for eight years beyond medical school. “People have the mistaken impression that earning the MD degree is the end of your training as a doctor, when it’s essentially a ticket to the next phase of training—residency,” says Steven B. Abramson, MD, senior vice president, vice dean for education, faculty, and academic affairs, and chair of the Department of Medicine.
The accelerated pathway also eases the stressful transition from medical school to residency, thanks to a special emphasis on mentorship and departmental engagement. Accelerated students spend at least one summer performing research in the department of their intended residency. “It’s not simply a fast track,” explains Joan F. Cangiarella, associate dean for education, faculty, and academic affairs. “Having a connection between the medical school admission process and the residency program provides a valuable opportunity to assess and follow learners across the entire continuum of undergraduate–graduate medical education.” Students are given the opportunity to “opt in” for accelerated study, and can
“opt out” at any time.
To ensure that the program is a good fit, NYU School of Medicine evaluates students throughout the accelerated program and follows graduates as they move through their residencies. The success of those young doctors so far has helped ease any doubts about their competency and preparedness, and has encouraged more medical schools to pursue their own accelerated programs. A recent survey of medical school deans nationwide reported that at least 35 percent of U.S. medical schools have or are considering developing a three-year MD program. NYU School of Medicine is in the vanguard of this trend, heading a consortium of 12 medical schools nationwide to identify and share best practices, provide opportunities for collaboration, and offer guidance to institutions considering an accelerated program.
“By making medical education more affordable, if not free, we put ourselves in a position to attract the very best medical students.” —Kenneth G. Langone, Chair, Board of Trustees
Dean and CEO Robert I. Grossman, MD, predicts that the accelerated pathway will become “a tsunami in medical education,” but he says he looks forward to the day when such a program will no longer be needed for its financial incentives. “We aspire to be a tuition-free medical school,” he declares. “Achieving this goal will take time, but we’re fully committed to making it happen.” NYU Langone’s board chair, Kenneth G. Langone, believes that the easier it is for promising, idealistic students to become doctors, the better off society will be. “By making medical education more afford able, if not free,” he insists, “we put ourselves in a position to attract the very best medical students.”