Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Price of Doctoring

What the f$#% is up with the ever-increasing price of study materials, test prep courses and the exam fees? Can we get a break anywhere? The test-taking business has become a lucrative for-profit industry that has ended up costing medical students and residents, already strapped by ridiculous loans, huge amounts of money.

Aren't preparation for national Board exams and USMLE tests the responsibility of medical schools and residency/fellowship programs? That's the deal we make with our benevolent program directors - we work like dogs for crappy pay and they provide us enough education to pass our tests. Lately, one party is not living up to their half of the bargain - and last time I looked residents' pay still sucked.

Prior to becoming the financial boon that it has become, the purpose of these tests were to assess the knowledge base of graduates and assure that those graduating physicians were studied enough to make reasonable decisions. Now they have become just another money-draining requirement along the way to becoming a "real" doctor. Why we need to pay hundreds of dollars just to take the test and thousands more for the numerous books, courses and additional fees is beyond me. Essentially, we're paying to be tested after paying to be educated.

When the vast majority of medical trainees are taking out more than $100,000 in loans just to attend medical school and then scraping buy during residency, they should not have to pay additional money out of their own pocket just to pass a test.

Perhaps no one ever talks about this because so many professors actually get paid by these test prep courses to teach these prep classes. But education has become exhorbitantly expensive and many of the readers of our website, an online community of medical students and residents called, have echoed similar sentiments. Which is a nice way of saying that they don't stop bitching about paying $700 to take their medical licensing exam.

One partial solution could lie in our fantastically logical idea we fondly named: The Generous Professor Series. What is this, you ask? We have begun asking our (and your) favorite professors to make donations in the form of Boards-style test questions in their respective specialty. Of course, we credit them for their generosity and they are listed as one of the authors of this altruistic endeavor. When we have gathered enough questions in a particular residency or medical school specialty (e.g. anatomy, pathology, internal medicine) we will sell them online for super-cheap and force all of those overpriced study guides and Q&A books to match our quality and our price. This will get done much faster with your help, so if you think you're into the Generous Professor project, click here to WRITE us and start contributing questions ASAP.

The outcry against pharm reps has been a grassroots success against a major industry trying to penetrate the medical training field. Our opinion aside, a united medical student and resident voice has shooed may reps right out of their hospitals. Perhaps affordable and responsible education should be the next great cause. We don't even have to give up free lunch for it.

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