One of the innovations that will accompany the opening of the Seton Hall-Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine is expected to be an optional three-year program that allows students to graduate with less debt one year earlier than usual.
A three-year core curriculum with a fourth-year option is being contemplated, Dr. Bonita Stanton, dean of the School of Medicine, said in an email interview.
This three-year core curriculum has been implemented in other universities in the U.S. and in two of Canada’s schools for more than a decade, Stanton said.
Deborah Haffeman, the Senior Public Relations Specialist for New York University (NYU), said in an email interview that their School of Medicine first offered the three-year medical school degree in fall 2013, with the inaugural class graduating this past May 2016.
According to Haffeman, 15 of the 16 students enrolled in the inaugural class stayed with the program and graduated in three years.
“This summer, 15 newly minted doctors entered their residencies after just three years of training at NYU School of Medicine,” Haffeman said.
Adam Kmeck, a Seton Hall senior, hopes to earn a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry.
Kmeck plans to attend medical school after he continues his studies for a master’s degree. He is considering SHU’s medical school, but is also looking into other schools.
“A three-year program is a good way to stand out, especially for when people have to apply for his or her internship,” Kmeck said.
One of the benefits of the three-year program is the “option to go into residency with the same pool of knowledge after three years,” Stanton said.
The three-year program can also help reduce student debt.
“More than 85 percent of medical school graduates carry debt, averaging $161,000,” Haffeman said of NYU’s program. The three-year option allows students to “graduate with less debt while getting more doctors quickly into communities that need them,” she added.
Holli Bossons, a junior biology major, said in an email interview that she would like to go to medical school and is glad that Seton Hall – which expects its first class in 2018 – is becoming an option she can consider.
Bossons said she has “mixed feelings on the idea of cutting out a year of medical school.” While one less year would save her money, she added that it may make the workload more difficult.
The compressed schedule has not impacted student performance at NYU, Haffeman said.
According to Haffeman, the program has been successful for students who know what specialty they want to pursue, which is about 10 percent of each class.
This includes students who are enrolled in three, four, and five-year degree pathways.
While there are many positives associated with the three-year program, there are also drawbacks, such as the program being intensive, Stanton said.
The program limits elective opportunities, requires students to make a decision sooner about residency and the type of specialization they want to pursue, Stanton added.
Stanton explained that all medical school students must complete at least one year of residency to become a licensed physician and students specialize in a residency that they choose.
Students have to be confident in what they want to pursue to go directly into residency in the third year and, if not, students can choose to go to school for a fourth year as well, Stanton said.
“We will be starting the medical school a couple of weeks earlier than most medical schools and will not have a ‘free’ summer between the first and second years to offer a curriculum of sufficient duration for accreditation,” Stanton said.
Kmeck, the senior biochemistry major who hopes to attend medical school, added, “There is the factor of burning out with a constant work load, since there would be classes in the spring, summer, and fall semesters. The usual summer jobs and internships would become difficult to maintain as one would have to keep up with their studies.”
Amanda Fernandez, a freshman biology major, said in an email interview that the new medical school is one of the reasons she chose to go to SHU.
“I think that a three-year program would be beneficial to a lot of students and I’d definitely be interested in going that route,” Fernandez said. Not having summer breaks in the first two years of the program could make studying easier because the course material stays fresh, she said. But she worried that such a schedule “might also be more vigorous because there are no breaks.”
If students stay for the fourth year, they decide what their curriculum will be for their last year, Stanton said. She added that a majority of students will probably stay for the fourth year.
The fourth year allows for the pursuit of a dual degree, a research and clinical-skill intensive year, and a year with an extra focus on specialized clinical skills, Stanton said.
Samantha Todd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.