Medical schools are offering three-year programs

    16 January, 2013

    From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report in Special English.

    Medical schools in the United States traditionally require four years of study. Now, a small number of universities are offering three-year programs. Finishing medical school in three years, the same as law school, means new doctors could begin their careers sooner.

    The reduction of a year could also save up to twenty-five percent of the cost. That would decrease heavy student loan debts for some students who borrow money to pay for their education.

    Schools offering three-year programs include the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and Mercer University in Georgia. New York University in Manhattan is testing a three-year program.

    At NYU, ten percent of the nearly two hundred students who entered the School of Medicine last fall were chosen for the new program. Students can change to the four-year program if the faster one is too difficult or too much pressure.

    Arthur Caplan is a bioethicist who heads the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU's Langone Medical Centre. He says the current system of American medical education dates back to the early twentieth century.

    An American doctor named Simon Flexner studied the German model of medical education. The Germans divided it into two years of science and two years of supervised clinical work with patients. Germany's model was considered the best in the world. American medical schools copied it, but Arthur Caplan says today medical students should be spending less time in the classroom and more time gaining experience in modern medicine.

    "Let's say, there is a lot more technology to learn and manage in the year 2013 than there was in the year 1905. So, the medical model of education that we have is out of date probably by a hundred years, that too much basic science not enough clinical doing and apprenticeship, hands-on training."

    After medical school, most new doctors spend at least three years working in residencies in hospitals. Training for some specialties can take much longer.

    "Graduate training, after medical school, specialty training is getting longer and longer and longer. So we're likely to see that continue is not the overall amount of time in training is going to diminish. It's that would give up some time in medical school for more time training in your specialty after medical school."

    Completing medical school in three years requires some additional preparation and summer school. Three-year programs were tried in the nineteen sixties and seventies but did not last very long. Some medical professors oppose them and some directors of postgraduate training programs question their quality.

    And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. I'm Bob Doughty.