In calculating return on investment from educational costs, law and business trump medicine

LETTER — Posted June 14, 2004

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Regarding "High medical school debt steers life choices for young doctors" (Article, May 17): Your article drew attention to a critical problem, but it contained one major factual error.

The article states that becoming a doctor is a better-paying investment than law or business.

Economic analyses done by William B. Weeks, MD, and Amy E. Wallace, MD, in 1995, and again in 2002 showed that medicine had a lower return on investment than the other professions.

In 1995, specialty care medicine was a better investment than dentistry, but by 2002, even specialty medicine had fallen behind.

Medical education debt is skyrocketing out of control, driven mainly by unrelenting increases in medical school tuition that have exceeded inflation every year for the past two decades.

Numerous studies have shown that these high debts are driving new medical graduates away from primary care and out of medically underserved areas.

The debt burden is falling more heavily onto minority and low-income medical students, decreasing the diversity and cultural awareness of our physician work force.

Organized medicine, legislators, and medical schools must come together to solve this crisis now, before there are no physicians left who will care for America's underserved and underinsured.

Alik Widge, Pittsburgh, chair, Task Force on Medical Education Debt, American Medical Association Medical Student Section

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/06/14/edlt0614.htm.

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