The City University of New York is preparing to open a full-fledged medical school in the coming weeks, with a mission to provide doctors for underserved communities.
The new institution, the CUNY School of Medicine, will be the city’s seventh medical school, born out of the university’s Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education. The school had offered a seven-year program in which students received a combined bachelor’s degree from CUNY and a medical degree from one of several schools in the state.
The new school, which will be based out of City College, will grant medical degrees and will have a partnership with Saint Barnabas Health System in the South Bronx, where a vast majority of students will be completing the clinical portion of their degree.
Tuition will be around $38,000, well below the $50,000 and upward that private medical schools cost, and the CUNY school has received provisional accreditation from the national Liaison Committee on Medical Education. The school will be reviewed for full accreditation when its first class is in its final year.
Sophie Davis’s expansion was partly out of necessity. The school had relied on sending its students to full-fledged medical schools to complete their M.D.’s. Competition from foreign medical schools — which often pay hospitals for rotation slots — have forced students to wait a year or so to start their clinical training, administrators said.
CUNY Medical’s inaugural class is made up of 70 students, and will most likely stay below 100; students are selected from those who successfully complete three years at Sophie Davis, which has an admissions rate of approximately 7 percent.
Administrators said that CUNY Medical aims to train doctors to serve communities across New York City that suffer from a lack of primary care medical professionals.
New York is one of the worst-performing states when it comes to primary care. A study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation in 2014 found that more than half of the state lacks a sufficient number of primary care doctors.
A lack of primary care doctors results in a number of problems, including expensive emergency room visits and a lack of preventative medicine, which can exacerbate illness and injury.
CUNY Medical administrators said that students aren’t usually attracted to primary care because they aren’t exposed to it enough in traditional medical schools. Instead, the focus is often on specialized medicine.
“Many specialists don’t value primary care doctors,” said Erica Friedman, deputy dean at CUNY Medical. “They think they’re the lowest on the totem pole — like the Hyundai instead of the Mercedes — so that role-modeling filters down and they end up wanting to go into specialty because it seems sexier.”
The medical school will require students to work in health clinics, often in poor communities, and take classes throughout the designated seven years — three in Sophie Davis and four at CUNY Medical — that focus on the need for primary care doctors in underserved communities.
Students will start working in community health centers after their second year of undergraduate work and continue through the second year of medical school.
Justen Molina, who will be part of CUNY Medical’s first class, worked in a community health center on the Lower East Side last year and in the South Bronx this year.
Mr. Molina, a Brooklyn resident, said that the experience gave him an appreciation for the work that primary care doctors do for people in their own neighborhood.
“They have such a great relationship with their patients,” said Mr. Molina, 20, who’s considering going into primary care. “Some of the doctors walk around their neighborhood and patients come up to them while they’re shopping for food.”
Students will be required to complete a “population health” curriculum from their first year of undergraduate school through their second year of medical school. The courses require students to conduct extensive community health assessments and to study the impact that resources and the surrounding environment have on a community’s health.
The school is well positioned to help underserved communities, because nearly half of CUNY Medical’s first class is composed of students from minority groups, many with ties to the communities the school aims to serve.
This is the result, administrators say, of Sophie Davis’s recruitment methods. The school has three recruiters who seek out a diverse student body, mainly recruiting in New York state.
“This is the ethos of City College and the ethos of CUNY, said Maurizio Trevisan, the dean of CUNY Medical. “This is the place of opportunity for all of the migrants of New York. So this is part of the same tradition.”
“Sorry,” he added. “I get excited because it’s a tremendous mission.”