Kaiser Permanente is opening a hospital-run school of medicine in Pasadena, announcing Tuesday, Feb. 19 it would waive tuition for its first five graduating classes in an attempt to jump-start medical careers minus the typical crushing student debt.
The Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine said it has received preliminary accreditation and will begin accepting applications from prospective students in June for admission in the summer of 2020.
This will be a unique learning institution for Kaiser, which plans to waive all tuition for the full four years of school at its campus at 98 S. Los Robles Ave. Those classes — with 48 students each — will run from 2020 through 2024.
Tuition would typically cost $55,000 a year, saving each student $275,000.
“This is primarily about making sure all students, regardless of backgrounds, aren’t deterred from pursuing a career in medicine due to the prospect of going into massive debt,” said Kaiser spokesman Vincent Staupe. “This is also about wanting students to be able to choose a medical specialty that they are truly passionate about, rather than choosing one based solely off financial need.”
Kaiser hopes the strategy will prompt more students to pursue lower-paying specialties in the primary care field, or work in under-served areas since they wouldn’t be burdened with overwhelming debt.
The school will use a “small-group, case-based medical curriculum” that are designed to prepare future physicians to become collaborative leaders committed to prevention, fluent in data-driven care and adept at addressing the needs of under-served patients and communities.
Dr. Mark A. Schuster, the school’s founding dean and CEO, said the health care giant is developing a school committed to providing “outstanding patient care in our nation’s complex and evolving health care system.”
The school said it has recruited a diverse group of leaders with vast health care experience who, in turn, created a curriculum that includes three academic pillars — foundational science, clinical science and health systems science.
The school’s clinical education will take place primarily in Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics in the greater Los Angeles area and in partnered community health centers.
Other medical schools at universities have taken steps recently to decrease their students’ financial burden. Columbia University, for example, is using a $250 million gift for a new endowment that will fund a range of scholarships and grants meant to ensure none of its medical students incur debt.
About three-quarters of medical school students graduate with debt, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges; members of the 2017 graduating class who had debt reported a median amount of $192,000.
Kaiser’s medical school has received preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, a different process than usual because, unlike the universities that open medical schools, it is not already a degree-granting institution.
The New York Times contributed to this report.