Could California's medical school students soon have the chance to complete a Doctor of Medicine degree in three years instead of four?
Inside Higher Ed reports that Texas Tech University has just approved a three-year medical school program at half the cost of a traditional four-year program. University officials there described the program as a way to address a shortage of primary care physicians.
“This is a program of national importance as we work to ensure that all Americans will have access to a primary care physician," said Dr. Steven Berk, dean of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Medicine.
The idea of an expedited medical degree could get a boost from a forthcoming study on medical education by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which is expected to recommend that all medical schools consider offering three-year programs.
David Irby, vice dean of education at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine and a senior scholar on the Carnegie study, told Inside Higher Ed that all medical school students should have the option of graduating in three years.
Typically, the fourth year of medical school zeroes in on medical specialties that not all students need as much of, Berk said:
Steven Berk, vice president for medical affairs and medical school dean at Texas Tech, said that the program was designed out of the conviction that most of the fourth year of medical school was focused on electives in various medical specialties – programs that are important for those considering specialized residencies, but that may not be necessary for those committed to primary care. Texas Tech believes that, with a few adjustments, it can provide those who plan careers in family medicine with the necessary parts of the fourth year earlier – and free up the year.
Meanwhile, a three-year bachelor's degree was among the many big ideas floated by the UC Commission on the Future this week. The group unveiled its first round of recommendations aimed at reshaping the university in the years to come. Final recommendations are expected in the fall.
Creating a three-year degree pathway could include required summer school sessions and increased use of high school Advanced Placement and other high school course credits.
The commission suggested a three-year bachelor's degree would benefit both students and the institution. Students would get a less-expensive way to complete their degrees, while the institution could produce a greater number of degrees with fewer resources. Critics say the students will miss out on the full UC experience even as fees would rise.