New Guidance on Early Med School Graduation Amid COVID-19, LCME Says

Megan Brooks

March 27, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) has issued "guiding principles" for medical schools considering early graduation for medical students in their final year of study.

The action comes in the wake of New York University's decision, announced earlier this week, to allow medical students the opportunity to graduate early, with the goal of boosting staff to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

"In the context of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, medical schools may be considering an option for eligible final-year medical students to graduate early," the LCME said in a statement.

In light of the current situation, they are recommending that medical schools follow the new guidelines, "which are consistent with LCME standards, in determining which of its final-year students are eligible for early graduation."

The LCME makes three specific recommendations.

First, medical schools should review their educational program objectives, the learning objectives of its required courses and clerkships, and required clinical experiences and skills.

"If students have met these requirements and been assessed on these required learning objectives, they may be eligible for early graduation. The school should confirm the eligibility of each student with its Student Advancement and Promotion Committee," the LCME states.

Second, a medical school can choose to waive electives, which, by definition, do not have required learning objectives, after review and approval by its curriculum committee and student advancement and promotion committee.

Medical schools should also review two other documents related to early graduation, which the LCME released earlier this month in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic: LCME Guidance Principles and LCME Approaches to the Clinical Curriculum.

Finally, LCME encourages medical schools to directly contact the LCME Secretariat (lcme@aamc.org) if they need additional guidance in determining which of their current final-year medical students are eligible for early graduation.

New York is just one locale where there is need for more physicians on the front line. The state has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, with more than 37,000 confirmed cases (as of midday March 26), the vast majority in New York City.

On Thursday, New York Gov Andrew Cuomo reported that in one day, 12,000 people volunteered to help medical staff.

On Wednesday, he announced that 40,000 New York healthcare workers, including retirees and students, had signed up to volunteer to work as part of the state's "surge healthcare force" during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, Cuomo reported that more than 6000 mental health professionals have signed up to provide free online services. On Thursday that number had ballooned to 8600, he said.

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