Kaiser Permanente medical school to open tuition-free

The Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, a new Pasadena, California-based medical school opening in 2020, will allow students to attend tuition-free for the first five graduating classes.

The school is one of a few in the U.S. not connected to a university and will begin accepting applications for admission beginning June 2019. Kaiser Permanente, a California-based integrated healthcare system with 217,000 employees and 22,000 physicians, is funding the school’s tuition-free start through its own community benefits portion of its revenue, The New York Times reported. The health system first announced its plans to open a medical school in late 2015.

Kaiser is not the only one to waive tuition for medical students as of late. Last year, New York University School of Medicine announced it would go tuition-free for students, regardless of need or merit. The move could help bring in more students interested in higher-paying specialties, but other experts believe free tuition will not solve a looming doctor shortage in certain areas.

For future students of Kaiser’s medical school, clinical experiences at the healthcare system will begin in the first year, according to the announcement. The medical curriculum will be small-group and case-based. The clinical education will take place primarily in the Los Angeles areas in Kaiser Permanente hospitals, clinics and partnered community health centers. The school received preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, Kaiser Permanente stated on Feb. 19.

“We’ve had the opportunity to build a medical school from the ground up and have drawn from evidence-based educational approaches to develop a state-of-the-art school on the forefront of medical education, committed to preparing students to provide outstanding patient care in our nation’s complex and evolving health care system,” Mark A. Schuster, MD, PhD, founding dean and CEO of the school, said in a statement.

The school also features a Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (LIC) model, placing first-year students with primary care preceptors to form relationships with patients and clinical mentors. Second-year students in their primary care LICs will also participate in obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry and surgery. Third- and fourth-year students will explore clinical education in potential specialties and areas of interest.

“Teaching physicians new and collaborative ways to practice medicine is critical to ensuring high-quality care in the future,” Edward M. Ellison, MD, an executive sponsor and board member for the school and executive medical director, Southern California Permanente Medical Group, said in a statement. “We believe that the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine will train true leaders in medicine, capitalizing on our unique approach to integrated and team-based care.”