NYC Creates Innovative Medical School Partnership to Address Doctor Shortage

Published November 29, 2018

Like many public hospital systems, New York City’s NYC Health+Hospitals (NYCHH) needs more primary care doctors. To help deal with the crisis, the city is partnering with SGU through a program called CityDoctors. New York City residents pursuing medical degrees can now attend SGU with their tuition fully covered under a renewed contract with NYCHH and SGU, but only if they pledge to work as a primary care physician in New York City for a specified period during training.

In addition to educating and training much-needed primary care doctors, SGU will pay NYCHH hospitals to ensure graduates are guaranteed rotation spots. With NYCHH having renewed a 2007 contract between NYCHH and SGU in 2017, the university is expected to pay more than $12 million annually for up to seven years for these spots.

U.S. medical schools have traditionally refused to enter into these types of agreements, arguing the student-doctor’s labor and school affiliation are satisfactory payment to the hospital.

Increasing Opportunities

Dr. G. Richard Olds, SGU’s president and CEO, says the arrangement will increase the number of opportunities available for U.S. medical students.

SGU is “every bit as much of a New York medical school as [any] New York-based medical school,” Olds told City and State NY in an article published on October 16, because many New Yorkers attend SGU, which had 380 third- and fourth-year students from the state in 2017. Olds estimates 4 percent of all New York doctors are SGU graduates.

“I would argue we’re actually New York State’s biggest medical school,” Olds said. “It’s just we happen to be based in Grenada.”

Olds says the main reason so many Empire State students choose to study at SGU is the university accepts many students who have not been able to obtain spots at highly competitive U.S. medical schools. More than 50,000 students apply for just 21,000 spots at U.S. medical schools every year.

Artificial Limitations

Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) and s policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News, says SGU provides an additional path for aspiring medical students.

“Places in U.S. medical schools are artificially limited, so many dedicated and capable students are shut out,” Orient said.

Dr. Machelle Allen, senior vice president and chief medical officer of NYCHH, says SGU’s academic standards are on par with those of main- land medical colleges. SGU is accredited by the New York State Education Department, and its students must pass the same entry exam as any other student who wishes to practice in the United States.

“When they come back to [NYCHH] as residents or providers, they really are as competitive as those who are trained in the United States and are looked upon favorably by their colleagues,” Allen told City & State NY.

‘A Force for Excellence’

Orient says the SGU-NYCHH partnership benefits New York patients, doctoral students, and SGU. Government intrusion into the U.S. medical school landscape is one of the reasons these kinds of partnerships are necessary in the first place, Orient says.

“New York needs doctors, and students who study at St. George’s need opportunities,” Orient said. “‘For-profit’ does not mean ‘inferior,’ nor does a location in the Caribbean.

“I think competition is a force for excellence, while government preferment of U.S. schools leads to complacency and conformity,” Orient said.

Cory Compton (thecomptonjr@ writes from Cheboygan, Michigan.