This Guy Knows What’s Best For You by Pat Conrad MD

Everybody loves the story about NYU not charging new medial students any tuition.  I commented on it recently  and wondered which strings are attached, and where.  And while I am deeply skeptical of the motives and hidden mechanisms of the whole initiative, it’s not my money they’re spending. writer Jordan Weissmann seems to think it is his money, so helpful and ardent is the advice he gives for spending it.  Weissmann quickly mixes in concerns over class privilege and race into his criticism of the NYU policy, because ALL medical stories have to be about politics.  Which is not to say Weissmann doesn’t recognize a couple factual points:

  • Most medical students will graduate with a painful amount of educational debt.
  • There is a worsening primary care shortage.  And without a contractual obligation beforehand, the great majority of NYU graduates will go into specialties other than primary care (because they aren’t stupid).
  • Offering free tuition won’t guarantee more minority students.

And on this last point, Weissmann throws down the race card and veers off into a progressive hootenanny of self-righteousness.  He drips class-envy when he calls the no-tuition initiative “a well-intentioned waste – an expensive, unnecessary subsidy for elite medical grads who already stand to make a killing one day as anesthesiologists and orthopedic surgeons.”

In fairness, NYU opens itself up to this moralizing when they voice pro forma platitudes that their move “addresses both physician shortages and diversity.”  Oh brother.

The author is upset that the program does not guarantee “diversity” (whatever value that ensures), and that “Instead, NYU is going to offer free tuition to every upper-middle-class Caucasian student destined to make a killing as a urologist in Florida, and hope that a few more exceptional black students show up at its door as part of the bargain.”

My problem with Weissmann is that his rationale infers that medical education is solely in the public sphere, a favor to be conferred upon the right sort, to fulfill larger community goals.  “By covering every student’s tuition, without any conditions, NYU’s leaders are essentially crossing their fingers and praying a few more of their grads decide to do something public spirited with their lives.”  How lovely for a blog writer to dispense moral guidance as to the desires others should have, and the sacrifices they should make.  He scorns the “tax deductible donations from overwhelmingly wealthy men, like billionaire Home Depot founder Ken Langone, whose name adorns NYU’s medical center and who chipped in a cool $100 million to this effort.” Weissmann calls it “a donation from today’s rich to tomorrow’s rich, all at taxpayer’s expense.”  It seems to have escaped him that these evil rich nonetheless GAVE something.

The greatest value of this story is the object lesson it offers to would-be medical students.  If you enter this philosophically fractured profession, then everywhere you look will be those less talented, less determined, and less able complainers who believe that they have a purchase on you.  Weissmann writes for the great mob who believe – not think – that even the gift of free tuition should be subject to their wants and arbitrary moral weighing.

The sole of public medicine is ingratitude, as the writer beautifully demonstrates.

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