Opinion | Training Doctors of Diverse Backgrounds

To the Editor:

Re “‘I Have a Ph.D. in Not Having Money,’” by Emma Goldberg (Science Times, Nov. 26):

This article sheds light on an important issue. American medical schools are at a crossroads, and now is the time to fix the disparity in medicine and science. Becoming a physician or scientist should not be exclusive to a certain race, gender or economic level. To provide the best patient care, our future doctors and scientists need to come from diverse backgrounds, including socioeconomic status.

It is time for medical education to take a look in the mirror: How can we best care and develop new treatments for underserved communities if they don’t see doctors or scientists that reflect the community?

We must reduce student debt burden and address burnout. In tandem, we must push forward new infrastructure and solutions so that becoming a physician or scientist is more inclusive. And then, we must move beyond inclusion to providing every student, professor, physician and scientist with a sense of belonging.

Augustine M.K. Choi
New York
The writer is dean of Weill Cornell Medicine.

To the Editor:

Are we discouraging the type of doctors our country sorely needs by pricing them out of a medical degree?

It pains me to read these stories, and yet it is comes as no surprise. With the challenges students face long after their admission, how many candidates are deterred from applying in the first place?

In the end, those who may make excellent doctors will take their talents into other fields. Our patients need doctors with racial and socioeconomic diversity. We know this is something we lack, despite evidence it improves outcomes.

New York University recently made medical school tuition-free. I am not suggesting that this is the solution, but it is an effort to address the situation.

Elizabeth Kuhn
The writer is a pediatric resident.

To the Editor:

While the trials and tribulations of accumulating student debt for low-income students in medical school were interesting, the most common solution to this problem was ignored.

The largest scholarship program for medical students is serving the country as a member of the United States military or Public Health Service. In exchange for committing to serve our country, students are paid a stipend, and full tuition and books are covered.

It was a great way for me to afford medical school, avoid having to fill out endless loan papers, and ultimately, practice medicine with the wide variety of Americans serving our country daily.

Kenneth Wells
Gardiner, Me.
The writer, a retired Navy flight surgeon, is a family physician.

To the Editor:

I am a retired ob-gyn and still have the ophthalmoscope/otoscope, reflex hammer, tuning forks and blood pressure cuff that I was required to buy as a first-year medical student. These immediately became redundant when I became a resident, and more so when I joined a practice. The clinics had them all in exam rooms, and hospitals had them to share.

Each medical school could provide “recyclable” sets for students provided by graduates if not by the school itself.

There must be thousands of sets of this equipment available from retired and practicing physicians. I plan to deliver mine so that an incoming student can make use of it. I hope others will do the same.

Applications, test prep materials and qualifying exams should be priced on a sliding scale, or at least with costs refundable for documented financial need.

Sylvia Fine
Cambridge, Mass.

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