SBU races ahead of the curve with three-year MD

No time to waste: New Stony Brook University School of Medicine students can now apply for the school's accelerated three-year degree program.

A new medical-training curriculum will allow Stony Brook Medicine students to complete their MDs a year faster.

The SBU School of Medicine has introduced a peppier alternative course load that lets students earn their medical degrees in three years instead of the traditional four – the first sped-up MD program on Long Island and just the second in New York State, according to the SUNY medical school.

Stony Brook Medicine’s three-year degree program is slated to begin in July, getting a running start on the 2018-19 academic year. Students accepted into the school’s traditional four-year medical program starting with the Fall 2018 semester may apply to transfer to the three-year program, the university said Tuesday.

A maximum of 15 students will be selected for the accelerated program in its first year. Acceptance into the three-year program includes conditional acceptance into a Stony Brook Medicine residency program, according to the school.

Latha Chandran, a medical doctor and vice dean of academic and faculty affairs for Stony Brook Medicine, warned that the fast track isn’t for everyone. The academic requirements are “similar” to traditional four-year programs, Chandran said, while “the three-year students also have to reach additional academic and professional standards by the end of the term.”

But Stony Brook Medicine is ahead of the national curve in creating and earning state educational approvals for its three-year program, according to Chandran, who is also the medical school’s Miriam and David Donoho Distinguished Teaching Professor.

Latha Chandran: New program faster, tougher.

“We hope the three-year MD program becomes a stronger trend nationally for the benefit of the students, many of whom have significant debt before becoming physicians,” Chandran said Tuesday.

At SBU, medical students accepted into the demanding three-year program will save one year of tuition – $40,000 for New York students, $65,000 for out-of-state residents.

While sacrificing an entire year of tuition seems counterintuitive to a university’s bottom line, optional three-year programs appeal to medical schools for recruitment purposes. The accelerated programs can help fill the national physician shortage more quickly while curbing student debt, both attractive notions to prospective medical students.

With the nation facing a potentially dangerous physician shortage, there has been renewed interest in the creation of three-year medical programs in recent years, though the formation of actual accelerated MD programs has been slow. Only eight such programs exist nationwide, including a three-year degree program at the NYU School of Medicine.

Kenneth Kaushansky, dean of the SBU School of medicine and the university’s senior vice president of health sciences, said Stony Brook’s accelerated program arrives with the nation “in dire need of more physicians.”

“This new program is an opportunity for our students to delve into their courses and clinical training more quickly, and gain immediate momentum in their journey to becoming physicians,” Kaushansky said in a statement. “The program also provides a notably less expensive way for our students to become physicians and enter the workforce.”