The quality of United States medical education is a matter of concern to every person in the country. In our nation of 315 million people, we log 1.3 billion doctor visits annually -- or an average of about 4 visits per person per year. If doctors are poorly educated, we stand to lose money, time, health, peace of mind, and in some cases, even our lives. If we do a good job of educating physicians, we reap substantial benefits, avoiding unnecessary care and harmful mistakes and enjoying longer, healthier lives.
About 60% of students who apply each year are not admitted, and many more students give up hopes of attending medical school before they ever apply. The more than 20,000 students who begin studies toward an M.D. degree each year in the U.S. have even greater investments ahead of them. Newly admitted medical students can expect to pay a small fortune over four years. The average cost of attending medical school at a public institution is about $50,000 per year, and this swells to $70,000 per year at private institutions. The typical public-school student graduates $150,000 in debt, while the figure is $180,000 for private school students.
And medical school graduation is far from the end of training. To become fully qualified physicians and sit for a board exam, newly minted M.D.s must then complete residency training, which typically ranges from as few as three years (in fields such as family medicine and pediatrics) to as many as seven years (in fields such as neurosurgery). Many will then pursue additional fellowship training, for one to three years. Students who graduate from college at the age of 22 years with a goal of entering my field of pediatric radiology would typically complete medical school at 26 years, radiology residency at 31 years, and fellowship training at age 32.