Medical Students, Residency Programs, and Incentives

The New York Times has an article today (in the Fashion and Style section no less) on the competition that medical students encounter for high-paying specialties—specifically dermatology and plastic surgery.

We all know the issue, but just in case:

“It is an unfortunate circumstance that you can spend an hour with a patient treating them for diabetes and hypertension and make $100, or you can do Botox and make $2,000 in the same time,” said Dr. Eric C. Parlette, 35, a dermatologist in Chestnut Hill, Mass., who chose his field because he wanted to perform procedures, like skin-cancer surgery and cosmetic treatments, while keeping regular hours and earning a rewarding salary.

Medical school professors and administrators say such discrepancies are dissuading some top students at American medical schools from entering fields, like family medicine, that manage the most prevalent serious illnesses. They are being replaced in part by graduates of foreign medical schools, some of whom return to their home countries to practice.

Although out of context, this quote is quite scary: “Last year, the school (Emory University) enlarged its incoming class, hoping more students would specialize in the major diseases and preventative care.”

With medical students leaving school with debt loads in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, “hoping” will do nothing.  Changing incentives (reimbursements, loan forgiveness, etc.) will.

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