Free Tuition for First Classes of Kaiser Permanente Med School

Megan Brooks

February 19, 2019

Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine, in Pasadena, California, will waive tuition for the all 4 years for the school's first five classes of students, the school announced today.

The private, nonprofit medical school, which is not affiliated with any university, has received preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and will begin accepting applications from prospective students in June 2019 for admission to the school's first class in the summer of 2020.

"We are thrilled that the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine has received preliminary accreditation to develop a world-class, 21st-century medical school," Holly Humphrey, MD, Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine board chair and president of the Josiah Macy Jr Foundation, said in a news release.

"We believe that the school will be a catalyst for change in medical education and will provide a remarkable opportunity for the students who are fortunate enough to attend," said Humphrey.

The inaugural class will have 48 students. The curriculum integrates the school's three academic pillars: foundational science, clinical science, and health systems science, an emerging discipline that focuses on care delivery from structural, organizational, and interpersonal perspectives and includes topics such as population health, social inequality, and quality improvement.

"Our students will learn to critically examine factors that influence their patients' health in their homes, workplaces, schools, and communities — and become effective health advocates for their patients. They will graduate with the knowledge and skills to become visionary leaders in medicine and take on some of the most challenging health issues of our time," Mark Schuster, MD, PhD, founding dean and CEO of the school, said in the release.

The core of the curriculum is made up of case-based learning that takes place in small groups facilitated by faculty.

Another feature of the school is a focus on longitudinal integrated clerkships (LICs), which will start in the first year in Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics and in partnered community health centers.

First-year students will work with primary care preceptors all year, which will allow them the opportunity to form relationships with patients and clinical mentors over time. Second-year students will continue in their primary care LICs and will also be exposed to LICs in obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery. Third- and fourth-year students will explore potential specialties and other areas of interest.

More information about the school is available online.


Kaiser Permanente Medical School is not the first to offer free tuition. Last July, the University of Houston announced that all 30 medical students in the inaugural class of the university's new College of Medicine will receive free tuition when the school opens in the fall of 2020, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

Last August, New York University (NYU) School of Medicine followed suit in announcing it would offer free tuition to all current and future students regardless of need or merit. As reported by Medscape Medical News, NYU officials said they made the decision in the hopes of attracting a more diverse group of students who will no longer have to fear that medical school is out of reach because they would incur a mountain of debt.

Debt is perhaps one of the biggest barriers to entering medical school. As the Medscape Residents Salary and Debt Report 2018 shows, more than a quarter of residents report between $200,000 and $300,000 in medical school debt. The Association of American Medical Colleges found that of all American physicians who graduated in 2017, 75% owed money.

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