For Med Students in Puerto Rico, the Catastrophe Continues

Ryan Syrek, MA


March 07, 2018

A new viewpoint published in JAMA Internal Medicine aims to contextualize the ongoing plight of medical students in Puerto Rico. Authors Andrea Quiñones-Rivera and Arielle Rubin recount the efforts of the Latino Medical Student Association to provide assistance and also frame the consequences of the disaster in terms of a larger perspective.

The viewpoint explains that the trainees enrolled in Puerto Rico account for nearly one quarter of all Latino/a medical students in the United States. Thus, impediments to medical education in Puerto Rico have the potential to dramatically affect the makeup and diversity of physicians inside the mainland United States. Although often mistakenly classified as international medical students, Quiñones-Rivera and Rubin offer a firm reminder that the 1300 students at the four accredited medical schools in Puerto Rico represent essential figures in addressing healthcare disparities within the United States as future minority physicians.

The piece goes on to explain the specific challenges faced in the wake of Hurricane Maria, including depleted funds for study tools, board examinations, and residency-associated fees. Disruptions to rotations and intermittent electricity and internet access have also combined to create numerous obstacles.

The authors issue a call to action, requesting a change to the clinical rotation system and a call for residency programs to receive strong guidance regarding consideration of medical students in Puerto Rico. These recommendations are followed by provocative questions about the inherent responsibility of unaffected medical schools to assist those programs who are in need.

Ultimately, the viewpoint serves as a reminder that although months have passed since the initial disaster, the catastrophe affecting these students is ongoing and has the potential to affect often overlooked aspects of healthcare far into the future.


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