CUNY medical school offers new opportunities

The newly established CUNY School of Medicine recently inducted its inaugural class of 69 students, paving the way for CUNY students to attain medical degrees for the first time in the university's history. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the school’s accreditation in July 2015 following approval from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, an accreditor of medical education programs throughout the United States and Canada. The school, which took students from City College’s Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Engineering to form its inaugural class, will be housed on the City College campus in Harlem.

As part of its mission to provide primary care physicians to communities lacking quality medical care professionals, the school is partnered with St. Barnabas Health System in the Bronx, a 150-year-old healthcare facility that is the oldest of its kind in New York City.

“This action increases employment, research and learning opportunities for students and faculty members at CUNY School of Medicine in Harlem and will help our next generation of healthcare workers serve communities across New York State,” said Cuomo following the school’s accreditation. “This new school is another step toward making medical care more accessible for all New Yorkers.”

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, demand for primary care physicians—such as the ones who will graduate from the CUNY School of Medicine—will outnumber the supply of primary care physicians by an estimated range of 12,500 to 31,000 doctors by 2025. This statistic is compounded further by the demand for non-primary care physicians, who are estimated to fall short of the demand by 46,000 to 90,000 doctors.

CUNY students wishing to attain a medical degree will no longer be forced to transfer to medical schools outside of the CUNY system. The 69 students who make up the school’s inaugural class are aided by a campaign to raise $20 million in interest-free loans to go toward their tuition.

“The new medical school is a logical and necessary expansion of the college’s prestigious 40-year-old biomedical program that has gained recognition as a leader in educating underrepresented minorities for medical practice,” said CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken. “CUNY and City College will award the MD degree for the first time in its nearly 170-year history.”

The school is one of several steps on the path that CUNY is taking to develop a variety of new degree programs. City College’s Grove School of Engineering has recently debuted a master’s program in translational medicine, a subject that revolves around the development of biomedical tools and treatments. Outside of City College, other CUNY colleges are creating additional science, technology, engineering and mathematics degree programs.

York College has recently begun offering students the chance to attain a master’s degree in pharmaceutical science as well as a master’s degree as a physician assistant. Other new STEM degree programs include a bachelor’s degree in technology in applied chemistry at City Tech and associate of arts degree programs in exercise science. Also included are bachelor’s degrees in earth and environmental science at Bronx Community College, earth science/adolescence education at College of Staten Island, bachelor’s of science degree in toxicology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, professional science master’s degree in physics and photonics at Queens College and associate’s degree in public health at Queensborough Community College.

These new programs will serve to better prepare students for employment in STEM fields, which are expected to grow exponentially in the near future. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, approximately one in every 18 workers in the United States were employed in a STEM field, accounting for more than 7.5 million workers. By 2018, STEM occupations are estimated to grow by 17 percent when compared to statistics from 2008.

The continued introduction of science degree programs throughout CUNY will likely serve to better prepare students for an employment climate that demands STEM majors. Whether it is benefitting communities in need of high-quality primary care physicians or creating a fresh wave of employable STEM degree-holders, CUNY may see an influx of students pursuing science degrees in the near future.