Medical School Debt: The Ghost Slowly Killing Medicine

It’s time for more medical schools to follow New York University’s lead and finally address a widespread issue that has left the future of medicine—especially that of lower-paying specialties such as family medicine and psychiatry— in an unstable position. Healthcare professionals, especially doctors, are and always will be a necessity across the globe. Sickness and disease will never cease; it’s part of the human condition. As known illnesses are cured, new diseases will be discovered. Despite the guaranteed stability of the medical profession, more and more aspiring doctors are pursuing other careers. It’s not difficult to see why. Dr. Farzon A. Nahvi, an emergency medicine physician in New York City, shared his personal experiences with the world this week in The New York Times.

It’s hard to ignore your passion and sense of purpose no matter how difficult the road ahead may appear. If it is what fuels your soul, it will be accomplished by whatever means—unless unremitting student debt is threatening your wellbeing. Dr. Nahvi was motivated to practice medicine by his childhood, growing up in a working-class family. He thought that being a physician would surely provide him with a life where he’d be more than comfortable financially. Never did he foresee still being in drastic debt more than five years after graduating from medical school. Unfortunately, this is the norm these days. Aspiring doctors not only have to seriously consider the time commitment, but also the monetary burden that can last decades after residency. It is completely mind blowing to me that even the top 1% of earners are struggling to make ends meet—to the point of skipping meals and even moving in with their parents. Where does that leave new doctors in lower-paying primary care specialties? No wonder a profession that is absolutely essential to society is dwindling.

The urgency of the issue is glaring in the statistics—by 2030, the doctor shortage in the United States could reach a terrifying 120,000. It’s time to take a stand against unbearably high education costs, especially with the population continuing to grow and age significantly over the next decade. Specifically, the U.S. population is expected to increase by 11%, with those over 65 increasing by 50% by 20130. Efforts to reduce education costs at both the undergraduate and graduate level need to be prioritized now more than ever. Collectively, our nation needs to recognize the severity of the situation and take legislative action. NYU brought awareness to the crisis by making tuition free for all medical students. Hopefully, this will create a domino effect. The bottom line is that we need our doctors; robots and artificial intelligence aren’t quite ready to take their place.

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Elizabeth Arruda

Is a contributor to The Almost Doctor’s Channel.