Coronavirus: Medical schools in US mull early graduation to meet growing demand for medicos

By: PTI | New York |

Updated: March 29, 2020 3:37:47 pm

A CNN report said at least 69 students at the NYU medical school want to graduate three months early to help in the fight against the novel coronavirus. Representational image/ file

Several medical schools across the US are considering early graduation for senior students to enable them to enter the healthcare system that is coming under strain and meet the growing demand for medical personnel as coronavirus cases in the country increase rapidly.

New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine announced last week that it is planning to allow senior students to graduate early in response to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “directive to get more physicians into the health system more quickly”.

A CNN report said at least 69 students at the NYU medical school want to graduate three months early to help in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

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According to the report, executive vice dean at the medical school Steven B Abramson said the university asked about 122 students, who are set to graduate this year, whether they would be willing to start their internship at New York hospitals in April instead of waiting until July. Nearly 70 students have volunteered to graduate, Abramson said.

“It is awe-inspiring and just says a lot about our students and their dedication to take care of people who are sick and to be part of a team of doctors taking care of these patients,” he said.

The report quoted Gabrielle Mayer, a 4th year medical student who is planning to join the primary care/internal medicine programme at NYU’s Bellevue Hospital, as saying that it was an “easy decision” for her.

“Knowing that we are waiting to graduate and join the workforce, that we have the skill set that seems needed and valuable right now, it was such an easy decision to join my co-residents, co-interns,” the 26-year-old said.

The school is now waiting for final approval from the New York State Department of Education, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education.

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If the approval comes through, students will be placed in internal medicine programmes or emergency rooms at NYU-affiliated hospitals in the area.

New York is the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in the US and the medical infrastructure in the state has come under tremendous strain as the number of coronavirus cases skyrocket. The state now has more than 52,000 COVID-19 cases.

According to the CNN report, the New York University became the first medical school to consider early graduation for its senior students and now other medical schools are considering doing the same.

“While the AAMC has not yet surveyed its member medical schools, the (Liaison Committee on Medical Education) has been working with several other schools that are considering or offering their students the option of graduating early,” said Alison Whelan, chief medical education officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges.

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In Massachusetts, all four medical schools are in discussions with the Massachusetts Health and Human Services (MHHS) to have a fast-track option.

The Tufts University School of Medicine, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the Boston University School of Medicine and the Harvard Medical School are all contemplating the idea, the report quoted MHHS Secretary Marylou Sudders as saying.

New York Governor Cuomo has announced three new sites — South Beach Psychiatric Centre in Staten Island, Westchester Square in the Bronx and Health Alliance in Ulster County — to serve as a place for emergency beds.

The sites will add 695 more beds to the state’s capacity. Additionally, in a new approach, the state will begin designating some facilities only for COVID-19 patients.

Three sites — South Beach Psychiatric Facility in Staten Island, Westchester Square in the Bronx and SUNY Downstate in Brooklyn — have been identified to provide over 600 beds, specifically for COVID-19 patients.

The federal government has also approved four new sites in New York for constructing temporary hospitals by the Army Corps of Engineers. These sites are at the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, the Aqueduct Racetrack facility in Queens, CUNY Staten Island and the New York Expo Centre in the Bronx.

These temporary hospitals will add 4,000 beds to the state’s capacity. These sites are part of the Governor’s goal of having a 1,000-plus patient overflow facility in each New York City borough as well as in Westchester, Rockland, Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Last week, Cuomo had announced that more than 40,000 healthcare workers, including retirees and students, have signed up to volunteer to work as part of the state’s surge healthcare force during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with more expected to sign up in the coming weeks.

Additionally, over 6,000 mental health professionals have signed up to provide free online mental health services.

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