Opinion: Medicine and Social Justice: Free tuition in medical school is only one step toward producing the doctors America needs

The New York University School of Medicine made headlines earlier this month when it announced that it would offer free tuition to all current and future students. The University says its hope is for students to have the freedom to choose lower-paying specialities, such as those in primary care and family medicine, while lessening the financial burden that accompanies a medical education. The announcement was widely praised by many, but will this actually result in more medical students choosing primary care, and where will these primary care doctors practice? Josh Freeman, author of Medicine and Social Justice, explores this topic in a recent blog post (to read the full article, please click HERE). One line from this post seems especially relevant to Southwest Virginia:

“Thus, students from upper-middle and upper income, primarily white (and Asian) suburbs are most likely to practice in those settings – which are precisely those least in need of more doctors. Students from rural or low-income or minority communities are much more likely to practice in such communities, and these are the places most in need of more doctors.”

According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, far Southwest Virginia is currently experiencing a shortage of primary care doctors. Free tuition at elite medical schools like NYU may spur more students to choose primary care, but it remains to be seen if this will have an impact on access to primary care doctors in rural and medically underserved areas, such as far Southwest Virginia.

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