The True Price of a Costly Medical Education System
Advocacy When medical school costs the same as a home, low-income students often abandon their dreams of entering the physician workforce.
Every pre-med student wants to be a doctor for different reasons, every medical student is driven to succeed with unique career goals in mind, and every physician works with patients to fulfill their own ideals and principles. Because of differences in their demographics, no two doctors are identical, and this holds true for their patients as well. Nonetheless, the underrepresentation of racial minorities in medical schools and the physician workforce is the norm, with minimal progress and there has been minimal made progress since the 1970s.
Without diversity in medical education and training, the quality of health care is diminished. It has been shown time and time again that students who attend diverse medical schools are better equipped and prepared to understand and treat patient populations that are as, if not even more, diverse. Yet, racial minorities are only a fraction of medical school enrollment. Women likewise are underrepresented in several medical specialties despite receiving the same education as men.
As I see it, this problem is grounded in one issue: lack of financial support. Some medical schools may not have enough scholarships to offer because of funding issues from the state government, alumni or local medical entities. Many students arrive at medical school already strapped with debt from their undergraduate studies. And according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, most medical students graduate with a total debt of around $200,000. Because of this, pre-med students from low-income families are immediately discouraged from continuing their education. They think: Why take on this debt, when I can pursue another career that puts me in a better financial situation? The answer is obvious.
With health disparities preventing tens of millions of Americans from living long and healthy lives, it will take a more robust and diverse physician workforce, comprised of a growing number of racial minorities and women, that is willing to serve patients that need help right now. It all starts with action from medical schools to reach out to surrounding communities and offer more opportunities and financial support for eager pre-med students.