Over the last few years, St. George’s University Medical School on the Caribbean island of Grenada has come under fire from New York City medical schools for paying to have its students trained in the city’s public hospitals, turning what local schools say should be an academic relationship into a fiscal one.
Now St. George’s and the city’s public hospitals are further cementing their financial relationship with a deal that will provide $11 million in scholarships for New Yorkers to attend St. George’s over the next five years. In exchange, they must promise to work as primary care physicians in the city’s hospitals after graduation.
The deal will give out 25 scholarships — 5 full and 20 half — in the first year, and the value of 40 full scholarships in the four years after that, officials said. The scholarships are to be financed entirely by St. George’s.
Alan Aviles, president of the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs the public hospitals, said at a news conference on Wednesday that the deal was a way of attracting badly needed internists, family medicine doctors and pediatricians to hospitals serving poor patients, and would be a boon to New Yorkers who might otherwise not be able to afford medical school tuition.
“This will make the dream of medical school come true for some talented New Yorkers,” Mr. Aviles said at Metropolitan Hospital on the Upper East Side, where he was joined by Charles Modica, St. George’s chancellor.
He cited projections that the nation faced a shortage of more than 90,000 physicians by the end of the decade, and said that city hospitals expected a wave of retirements that would exacerbate the shortage. About 35 percent of primary care physicians in the public hospital system are over 55, he said.
The city is calling the program CityDoctors and is billing it as a kind of West Point for physicians: For every year of free tuition, scholarship winners will have to serve a corresponding year in the army of public medicine after they have graduated from St. George’s.
The arrangement has benefits for the medical school, since it has the potential to give it greater access to the clinical training positions, known as clerkships, at city hospitals. A large part of medical school training is clinical training, typically in the third and fourth years. The deal announced on Wednesday calls for St. George’s to provide even more scholarship money if the hospitals expand their training slots for the school’s students.
The deal seemed likely to increase friction with the New York City area’s medical schools, which have already complained that St. George’s is squeezing out their own students because it is willing to pay for clinical training. That training has traditionally been perceived as part of the mission of teaching hospitals, to be offered without charge.
Jo Wiederhorn, president of the Associated Medical Schools of New York, said Wednesday that she understood the hospitals corporation’s need for primary care physicians, but that “we just want to make sure that we have enough for our kids.”
Last year, St. George’s paid the hospital system $6 million to train about 900 students, officials said. The system also trained about 1,500 students from other medical schools.
Mr. Aviles, of the hospitals corporation, said that New York medical schools were not producing enough primary physicians to meet the need, adding, “Not a single medical student from a local medical school has been displaced.”
St. George’s medical program has about 4,500 students; 70 percent of them are United States citizens, and 18 percent of those are from New York State, said Margaret Lambert, the dean of enrollment. The program charges about $52,000 a year in tuition, she said.
To be eligible for the program, applicants have to have a permanent address in New York City and must meet one of the following criteria: to have graduated from a city high school; to have lived within the city for the last five years, or to be employed or have a parent employed by the city or the hospitals corporation for at least five years.
Although only seven city hospitals now train St. George’s students, the graduates of the scholarship program will be able to fulfill their commitment by working at any of the city’s 11 hospitals or at its community health centers.