The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University on Thursday announced that all future students entering the school will be given full scholarships in an effort to promote academic medicine as a career path among medical students, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The scholarships, valued at $43,500 annually, originally will be funded by money generated by Lerner's operations and endowment and eventually fully funded by the endowment. Current students will receive scholarships equal to half of their annual tuition. The scholarships are not contingent on graduation or choice of medical specialization.
According to the Journal, the medical profession "has worried for years" about the high cost of medical education and the effect it has on students deciding which field of medicine to pursue. Medical school graduates have an average debt of $140,000, and debt influences one-third of them in their choice of specialization, according to a American Association of Medical Colleges survey. The average annual salary in clinical practice is $161,000 for family physicians, $380,000 for radiologists and $413,000 for orthopedic surgeons, compared with $140,038 for family physicians, $205,904 for orthopedic surgeons and $272,737 for radiologists in academic medicine, according to data from Merritt Hawkins and the Medical Group Management Association.
About 15% of incoming medical students expressed interest in academic, or research, medicine over the last decade, but the percentage declined to 9.4% of students in 2007 for unknown reasons, according to Gwen Garrison, director of student and applicant studies for AAMC. Lerner Executive Dean Andrew Fishleder said, "We hoped that debt would not hinder their ability to pursue their careers." Fishleder added that the scholarship program will increase competition for enrollment among the most qualified prospective students.
However, some experts believe medical school graduates forgo academic medicine for other reasons, including work-life balance, the amount of direct contact with patients and the nature of daily work. The University of Central Florida, which is launching a medical school, announced in April it will offer scholarships that completely cover tuition and expenses to its first class. In addition, Yale University and some other universities are increasing financial aid for medical students, the Journal reports (Wang, Wall Street Journal, 5/15).