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NYU offering tuition-free LI School of Medicine to train primary doctors

The university's program will be for three years, not the traditional four, and most students will do their medical residency at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola.

Dr. Steven Shelov is the founding dean of

Dr. Steven Shelov is the founding dean of the new NYU Long Island School of Medicine, which plans to begin classes in July. Photo Credit: Danielle Silverman

New York University plans to open an accelerated, tuition-free medical school in Mineola in July with a focus on training primary care physicians, university officials said.

NYU will officially announce the creation of the NYU Long Island School of Medicine on Tuesday. On Feb. 12, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting body for U.S. medical doctor programs, granted preliminary accreditation to the medical school, which will be the fourth on Long Island.

Most NYU Long Island students are expected to do their medical residency at NYU Winthrop Hospital, and will take classes in a building across the street from Winthrop, which became affiliated with NYU in 2016, said Dr. Steven Shelov, founding dean of the medical school. That will lead to more primary care physicians on Long Island, which, like the rest of the country, has a shortage of primary care doctors, he said.

“Where people do their residencies is where they have the likelihood of eventually settling, so it becomes a pipeline to our communities,” said Shelov, a clinical professor of pediatrics at NYU and professor of pediatrics at Stony Brook University.  

Only about a dozen medical schools nationwide focus on primary care, he said.

The first NYU Long Island class will have 24 students for the accelerated three-year program. The number will ramp up to 120 students by the 2024-25 academic year, Shelov said. Medical school traditionally is four years, and NYU in Manhattan created one of the nation’s first three-year medical degrees in 2012, although most current NYU medical school students still are in a four-year program, Shelov said.

NYU began offering a tuition-free education to its Manhattan students this academic year, and the same policy — which is for all students, regardless of need or merit — will be in place on Long Island, Shelov said. Tuition for the 2018-19 academic year is $55,018, covered by an NYU scholarship.

The money for the tuition scholarships is from a combination of fundraising for the school and the university’s general endowment, a university spokeswoman said. 

Primary care physicians, the principal doctor for most people, generally earn less than specialists, and with the median medical school debt nationally at an estimated $192,000, many students avoid careers in primary care medicine in favor of a more lucrative specialty, Shelov said.

“We won’t have that [problem] because our students will not be in debt from their medical school,” he said. “That’s an important incentive.”

NYU Long Island students still will be responsible for housing, books and other nontuition expenses — estimated at about $26,000 a year, Shelov said. Financial aid is available for those expenses, he said. NYU will provide subsidized housing adjacent to NYU Winthrop.

The free tuition will attract a more diverse applicant pool, including people who may have thought medical school was out of reach because of the cost, Shelov said. 

Julie Fresne, senior director for student financial and career services for the Association of American Medical Colleges — which represents all 154 accredited medical doctor programs in the United States — said NYU is the only medical school the group is aware of that provides a tuition-free education for all students.

NYU President Andrew Hamilton said most students at NYU’s Manhattan medical school pursue careers as specialists or researchers. The new Long Island school’s curriculum that will focus on training primary care doctors will fill a void, producing “the people who will be the pediatric physicians, the internal medicine physicians, the ob/gyn [obstetrician-gynecologist] positions serving the community,” he said.

“We saw a real opportunity on Long Island at Winthrop to create a center of excellence for the training and education of primary care-focused physicians,” he said.

There was an estimated shortage of 1,425 primary care doctors in New York State at the end of 2018, and a shortage of 14,900 nationwide, according to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. The national shortage could grow as high as 49,300 by 2030, a March 2018 report by the medical college association found. The report also forecast a shortage of specialists.

Michael Dill, the medical college association’s director of workforce studies, said the shortage of physicians is because, as the nation’s population ages, more doctors are needed, and many physicians are approaching retirement age. More than 40 percent of doctors are 55 and older, the association’s report found.

The new medical school will begin a nationwide recruitment of applicants next month. Classes are set to begin at NYU Winthrop’s Research and Academic Center on July 29, Shelov said. Parts of the building are being renovated and reconstructed to accommodate new classrooms and offices, thanks in part to a $1 million state grant from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s annual Regional Economic Development Councils competition.

Although the school is new, Winthrop for years served as a training ground for 80 of the approximately 540 students from Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine who have done clinical rotations at Winthrop. That arrangement is being phased out and will end in spring 2020, Shelov said.

In response, Stony Brook University increased the number of clinical rotations at Stony Brook University Hospital and added Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and South Nassau Communities Hospital as clinical rotation sites, said Dr. Latha Chandran, vice dean for academic and faculty affairs at the Renaissance School.

Chandran welcomed the NYU Long Island School of Medicine and its primary care focus.

“I don’t see that as competition” with Stony Brook, where most students don’t pursue primary care careers, she said.

Another Long Island school that trains prospective physicians is The Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, which has about 420 students. Hofstra University and New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health founded that school in 2008, when Northwell was known as North Shore-LIJ Health System, and classes began in 2011, making it the newest medical school on the Island before NYU. Stony Brook’s medical school was founded in 1971.

The New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury, which educates prospective doctors of osteopathic medicine, has 1,246 students. It dates to 1977.

The LI medical school’s three-year program will have slightly longer semesters than NYU’s four-year program, Shelov said. Students also will not take some electives that Shelov believes are unnecessary. He said students in traditional programs typically spend months in their fourth year interviewing for a residency, which won’t be necessary at the Long Island School of Medicine because they all will receive conditional acceptance to an NYU Winthrop residency, he said.

NYU Long Island students will have the option of pursuing residencies off the Island, but the conditional acceptance at NYU Winthrop is an incentive to do their residencies there — part of NYU Long Island’s local focus, Hamilton said. Students at NYU’s Manhattan medical school complete their residencies at hospitals across the country, he said.

Kevin Law, president and CEO of the Long Island Association, the region’s largest business group, said the new medical school not only will help provide more doctors for Long Island’s aging population, it also will add prestige to the Island and could attract more health care-related businesses, he said.

The state education department must approve the medical school and said Friday it is in the process of reviewing NYU's application.

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