Commentary: It’s time to make medical school free

In this May 11, 2016, photo, University of Massachusetts Medical School instructor Kavita Babu holds up a syringe of nasal Naloxone for emergency treatment of opioid overdose, during a class about the biology of addiction at the medical school in Worcester, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Modern medicine is one of the greatest advantages to living in this era. While we still get sick, a visit to the doctor’s office means that almost anyone will feel better in less than a week.

When I was young, I would get sick all the time. I would lie in bed for days until my parents decided that I needed to go see a doctor. We would go and just like that, I would take some medication and, in no time, I would feel great again. My story is very common and, because of it, we can easily take it for granted.

Sometime soon we may have to learn the hard way just how good we have it now. The United States is in the beginning of a physician shortage. The idea of going into medicine just isn’t as glamorous as it once was, and we are quickly running out of doctors in some areas of the country. If we don’t start to correct this trend, we will see the consequences soon. We need to change the health care system that creates doctors, and we should begin by making medical school free.

Every year, potential physicians are discouraged from pursuing medicine for a large variety of reasons, but by far the biggest deterrent is money. Most people think doctors are rich and have zero money problems. The fact is that doctors must go to at least four years of extra schooling post-undergraduate degree. Afterward, they must go through two to four years of residency, where they will have to work 24-hour shifts and make less than a fast-food worker.

All doctors you meet will have gone through this, and all while procuring hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. When you highlight these reasons, it becomes clear that doctors would be way better off going into another field where they can make large amounts of money right after their undergraduate degree.

Most doctors choose their career because of the personal satisfaction involved, but for many potential physicians, the stress of debt while also thinking of starting a family is just too much to bear. If the high cost of medical school were removed, more and more undergraduate students would consider medicine as a career.

Reducing the astronomical cost of medical school would have some major benefits for our country. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars for each student to go through so many years of extra schooling.

The greatest problem for making medical school free is who will end up paying for it. The easiest solution would be for the United States government to pay for tuition. While I believe this is the best solution, it has the obvious disadvantage of higher taxes. No one likes it when taxes increase, but it is essential to prevent a much greater tragedy from happening. The United States government must step in and subsidize medical schools across the nation to help alleviate the physician shortage.

I hope now it has become clear that we are facing an unprecedented crisis and that real action needs to be taken. Doctors are such an essential part of our community and we cannot take them for granted. With help from government subsidies, we will be able to help students have the opportunity to go through medical school. If we don’t do this, then who will be left to help when your kid is sick in bed?

Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson is a freshman studying microbiology at Brigham Young University.