UT System’s TIME program seeks to shorten path to medical school, graduate doctors sooner

UT System’s TIME program seeks to shorten path to medical school, graduate doctors sooner

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The battle lines to provide more extensive health care in the state of Texas have been drawn and officials at University of Texas colleges and medical schools believe the war for more doctors will be won by reducing the number of years students spend working on their medical degree.

One innovative pilot program at some of the health institutions in the UT System, TIME or Transformation In Medical Education, seeks to do just that.

TIME is a student-centered, clinically-focused program designed to increase the effectiveness of medical education while shortening the time it takes to get a medical degree. The program involves four partnerships among multiple UT institutions with the first medical students joining The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston in 2016. It currently takes eight years to complete undergraduate studies and medical school. TIME seeks to graduate students sooner and it could result in other medical schools adopting a similar system.

Dr. Steve Lieberman, senior dean of administration at UTMB and co-chair of the TIME initiative, said that expanding clinical training throughout medical school and providing mentors will help students become physicians more quickly and completely than traditional medical school.

In Europe, doctors graduate after five to six years. The time required in the United States is part of an antiquated system that has been in place for 105 years.

“If we can show that we can train students more quickly in six or seven years, with as good or better outcomes, how could we not do it for everyone?,” Lieberman said. “Unless there’s some logistical reason why we couldn’t do it, then we ought to be doing it for everyone.”

In addition to possibly addressing the shortage of doctors, the TIME program will help reduce the debt that many physicians incur during their education.  The median amount is $170,000, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. The TIME program could save participants a quarter of that debt.

“When students go to med school, whether it’s at UTMB or Houston, their experiences are going to be different,” said Hugo Rodriguez, assistant professor in the department of biomedicine and TIME coordinator at UT Rio Grande Valley, Brownsville campus. “But we have something in common – we want to create a great doctor. A doctor with an adequate attitude, with quality, with good compassion, the kind of doctor you want at your bedside when you are sick.”

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