A doctor in seven years? Sign me up

New program combines undergraduate and medical school

medical school

Photo courtesy of Tulane Public Relations on Flickr

Imagine if there were a way to train doctors more efficiently, effectively, and at a lower cost, increasing the number of primary care providers while decreasing the amount of debt that students face. In other words, imagine a system that benefits patients, doctors, and the health care system.

Officials at the University of Texas (UT) believe they can do just that.

A new program pitched for 2013 will reduce the number of years that are required for students to earn a bachelor’s degree and a medical degree by spreading medical education across seven years, instead of putting most of it in a four year program that follows a BSc. The class would start with 60 freshman who are guaranteed a spot in med school if they do well in the first three years.

There may be fewer electives than a normal science degree, but there will still be some flexibility built into the program, including an entire year to “explore an area of interest” such as public health or medical research.

“Medical education, in general, takes too long, costs too much, it’s redundant, and it also doesn’t necessarily prepare people for practice in the 21st century,” Dr. Kenneth Shine, the UT’s executive vice chancellor for health affairs explained to The Austin American-Statesman. Other UT campuses are planning to try a similar model for nursing and pharmacy students.

The idea of reducing the time it takes to graduate from medical school isn’t exactly new, but it’s not very common. At least one three-year medical program can be found here in Canada. McMaster operates on an 11 months-a-year basis that allows students to qualify for the MD degree at the end of the third academic year. So do roughly 15 per cent of American schools. But the idea of combining undergraduate and graduate has so far been limited to places like Australia and Ireland. This may be a North American first.

Considering that it takes at least eight years between high school and medical residency, there’s another potential benefit to shortened programs for both patients and taxpayers. If doctors enter the workforce a year earlier and stay working a year longer, it would make life easier for the roughly 2-million Canadians who want a family doctor but can’t find one.


A doctor in seven years? Sign me up

  1. Calgary is also a 3-year program. I’m not sure why the length of training matters particularly for the supply of physicians – there’s no shortage of applicants, certainly, and it’s not like physicians are subject to a mandatory retirement age.

  2. I thought the medical school in Saskatoon streamlined the process back in the 1970’s with admitting students after one year of science.
    At the same time, being on staff at the Vancouver General; I recall prospective medical students, or MSI’s as they’re called now; able to buy their way into med school in Guadalajara, Mexico, along with some of the most bizarre admission necessities existing at the time.

  3. Calgary also offers a three-year MD program here in Canada.

  4. You’re not taking into account the Quebec system. After CEGEP (which is 2 years and begins after completing Grade 11), people can be accepted into pre-med which takes only a year. You then complete your MD in 3 years. Also, pre-med is basically a guaranteed in to medical school – at least at McGill, you are accepted into pre-med, you are accepted into medical school, thereby basically combining undergrad and grad school.


    – If you are in the UT program discussed in the article, you graduate high school after Grade 12 (when you are 18) and then it takes another 7 years to earn your MD (when you are 25).
    – If you are from Quebec, you can potentially graduate after Grade 11 (when you are 17), complete CEGEP when you are 19, complete pre-med when you are 20 and have your MD when you are 23.

    I’m sorry, but this program is not novel, nor is it the first in North America to combine undergrad and graduate school.

  5. Well, it’s not like they’re operating on you. They become GP’s, referring you to the right specialists.

  6. Even if they have the knowledge, most will not have the maturity.