For many young people, the dream of becoming a doctor is fraught: Medical school graduates are often saddled with extreme debt.
St. Luke’s University Health Network is looking to change that and make it easier for aspiring physicians to fulfill their dreams.
St. Luke’s announced last month that it will provide more than $175,000 in tuition assistance for select medical school students who pursue a career in family medicine or general internal medicine and who choose to work at St. Luke’s after graduation. In other words, a nearly free medical school education.
“It’s a huge win for everyone,” said Joel Rosenfeld, MD, Med, FACS, Chief Academic Officer for St. Luke’s and Senior Associate Dean at Lewis Katz School of Medicine (LKSOM) at Temple University. “We will be able to help future physicians pursue the career they want, while essentially paying for their medical school costs. In turn, we will be able to grow our physician base and keep these vibrant, young doctors right here, in the Lehigh Valley.”
Family medicine and general internal medicine doctors–otherwise known as primary care physicians or PCPs–are in short supply in the Lehigh Valley, as well as other parts of the nation. With 88.5 million Americans set to reach age 65 by 2050, compared to 40.2 million measured in 2010, the need for primary care physicians and providers will only continue to grow.
Foreseeing this shortage and its impact to the community, St. Luke’s partnered with Temple University 12 years ago to develop the Temple/St. Luke’s School of Medicine in Bethlehem. The school enrolls 40 students per class.
Current students already benefit from significantly reduced tuition thanks to generous donors and programs that St. Luke’s offers; however, the new program will cover almost all tuition for participating students.
“We are proud of our relationship with St. Luke’s, which has grown throughout the years,” said John Daly, MD, FACS, Interim Dean of LKSOM. “This substantial tuition program illustrates their dedication to their students and the community. As a previous board member, I’m not surprised; St. Luke’s continues to set an example of innovative, collaborative health care.”
The tuition assistance program is open to all medical students, not just Temple/St. Luke’s students. To be eligible for the tuition reimbursement, students must be accepted into and complete their primary care residency with St. Luke’s and then commit to employment with St. Luke’s for a period of time as a PCP. Students who do not commit to employment with St. Luke’s are still eligible for a modified level of reimbursement.
“The goal of attracting and hiring more primary care providers is essential to the way we provide care,” said Rosenfeld.
A good, ongoing relationship with a primary care physician is shown to improve a patient’s understanding of their health and any conditions they may have. This, in turn, can improve health outcomes, lower costs and improve patient satisfaction.
Note: This local health news is brought to you in partnership with St. Luke’s University Health Network.