Geisinger offers medical school debt-free

In an effort to boost primary care, Geisinger and Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine will provide debt-free medical school and living assistance to its students who plan to work in primary care at the health system after graduating.

The Geisinger Primary Care Program will provide free tuition to 40 medical students each year and offer a $2,000 monthly stipend. Those who commit to primary care after graduation must remain at the health system for four years after residency.

The offer is beneficial for Geisinger at a time when primary care physicians are in demand, and the Pennsylvania-based health system is not the only medical institution providing tuition-free medical school. Kaiser Permanente, based in California, announced earlier this year its new medical school­­––to open in 2020––will allow students to attend tuition-free for the first five graduating classes. In 2018, New York University School of Medicine announced it will offer tuition-free medical school to anyone, regardless of need or merit.

Some experts aren’t sure free tuition will be enough to solve the looming doctor shortage, however, with a large population of aging Americans.

Geisinger’s solution to commit students to its own primary care workforce sticks out from its peers, and the 40 students will be selected annually through a competitive application process that considers financial need, academic merit, diversity, passion for serving their communities and predictors of whether the applicant will likely stay in the Geisinger service area.

“At Geisinger, we’ve been able to prove that by focusing on primary care we can improve outcomes, lower costs and improve satisfaction among patients and providers,” Jaewon Ryu, MD, JD, president and CEO at Geisinger, said in the announcement. “These scholars have the opportunity to learn and later work in Geisinger’s innovative primary care environment without the worry of how they will pay for their education.”

According to Geisinger, it is also rethinking how to train doctors with innovative primary care models. Scholars are matched with a Geisinger doctor to serve as a mentor through medical school years.