BC Medical Association

BC Medical Association

June 17, 2005 17:33 ET

BC Medical Association: The High Amount of Medical School Student Debt Often Dictates How and Where Physicians Practice Medicine

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(CCNMatthews - June 17, 2005) - That a medical education costs a lot of money is no surprise, but the fact that the high debt load that medical students can end up with often influences the type of medicine they practice is.

The results of the National Physicians Survey released by the Canadian Medical Association earlier this week echoes the BC Medical Association's concerns regarding the increasing financial burden medical students have upon graduation.

The annual costs for tuition, books, and supplies can be upwards of $20,000, and added to that would be rent, food, and clothing. This comes after the costs of an undergraduate degree. "At the end of the four year medical school program, students can have well over $120,000 of debt. With these unprecedented levels of debt, fewer medical students are choosing family medicine and instead are choosing specialty practice," says Dr. Kevin McLeod, president of the Professional Association of Residents. Specialist physicians traditionally earn more than family physicians.

According to a BCMA survey undertaken in December 2004 involving UBC medical school students, 66% said they have loans over $50,000 and 25% have loans that exceed $100,000. Once medical school students graduate (as with any post-secondary graduate) loan repayment begins. But unlike other graduates, medical school students begin a two to six year residency program earning a set income far below that of a fully trained physician and are required to begin repaying these hefty loans. 71% of medical students said they find it difficult to manage their loan repayments during their residency.

The BCMA has been urging the provincial government to provide interest free status and postpone repayment of interest and principal on student loans for medical students until completion of the entire post-graduate term. "To date, the BCMA has been successful in working with government to implement the loan forgiveness program that forgives 33% of outstanding BC student loans per year of practice in a designated under-serviced region of the province," says Dr. Michael Golbey, president of the BC Medical Association. "However, we need to find ways to make attending medical school more affordable for all British Columbians. The federal and provincial governments need to take a serious look at the long-term impact of debt load on our future doctors."

Because of the high costs associated with going to medical school, the family income of new students is much higher than the Canadian average - well over $100,000 per year. "Our concern with the high costs of a medical education is that it limits access to medical school for those from low and middle income families. We need our new doctors to reflect the makeup of our population," said Dr. McLeod.

Contact Information

  • BC Medical Association
    Sharon Shore
    Manager of Media Relations
    (604) 638-2832 or Pager: (604) 680-1968
    www.bcma.org