Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
In August 2007 U.S. medical education reached a milestone with the accreditation of the first for-profit medical school since Flexner’s time. Is this a bellwether of a new and lucrative scheme to capitalize on the desirability of a medical degree?
The Rocky Vista University, College of Osteopathic Medicine, a Colorado for-profit corporation, is anticipated to admit its first class of students in 2009. Rocky Vista’s co-owner (with his wife) is the son of the founder of the American University of the Caribbean (AUC) School of Medicine in St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles, and has long served as its chief operating officer.1
We see no need or justification to establish for-profit medical schools. The for-profit status of Rocky Vista is dismissed by its proponents as merely a “tax status” that does not affect the quality or operation of the school. However, we cannot help but wonder whether, in order to make a profit and generate a return for its investor, Rocky Vista will have to divert funds that could otherwise be used to enhance research and education, while at the same time maximizing price (tuition) to competitive market levels.
For-profit medical schools exist in permissive locales, like the Caribbean, in order to exploit the attractiveness of a medical degree to students who are willing to pay a premium of quality and credibility. Certainly, many graduates of the Caribbean for-profit schools become competent and accepted physicians in the U.S. medical community, but they often struggle to find admittance into U.S. residencies and frequently are left with less desirable slots.2
The Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation’s standards permit a school to be either a for-profit or not-for-profit institution, whereas the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) accreditation standard states that a medical school should be not-for-profit unless there are extraordinary and justifiable circumstances that preclude full compliance with the standard. Which, to me, means that the LCME strongly prefers not-for-profit schools.
What is going on in osteopathic medicine may be a “canary in a coal mine” for the future of all medical education. If Rocky Vista is successful, it may usher in a “gold rush” of other for-profits emulating the osteopathic model.
George Mychaskiw II, DO
Professor and vice-chairman, Department of Anesthesiology, and Chief of Anesthesia, Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital, University of Mississippi School of Medicine, 2500 North State Street, Jackson, Mississippi; (email@example.com).
Whitney Wiltshire, PhD
Director, Teaching and Learning Center, University of Mississippi School of Medicine, Jackson, Mississippi.