Kaiser Permanente to Open Medical School


Janani Ravikumar
Staff Writer

HMO Kaiser Permanente plans to open a medical school in Southern California to revolutionize the current healthcare system. While a site hasn’t been selected for the new school and other details such as the price tag and campus size have not been finalized, Kaiser hopes to enroll its first class in 2019. The company’s approach to education will differ vastly from that of other established medical schools, as it will focus on research and new technology by training students in the company’s own style of integrated diagnoses and treatment.

“We have the opportunity to help train physicians on 21st century medicine and be on the cutting edge of all the changes we are experiencing,” Kaiser Chairman and Chief Executive Bernard Tyson said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Our model of care is best for the current and future diverse populations in this country.”

Kaiser’s decision to open a new medical school comes at the trailing edge of a medical school expansion, NPR reports. Within the past decade alone, 20 new medical schools have opened or been approved — an increase that has been unmatched since the 1960s and 1970s. This is partially due to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) calling for a 30 percent increase in medical school graduates by 2015 by enrolling more students and expanding schools; this ensures that there will be enough medical professionals to meet the increasing demand.

“While the AAMC agrees that better coordinated care and more efficient use of resources are essential,” said the AAMC in its call for help, “quality healthcare requires, first and foremost, that physicians be there for patients. The need for doctors is real and will become more urgent as our nation ages and grows.”

Kaiser is not the first HMO to attempt this. North Shore-LIJ Health Systsem, whose chief executive is advising Kaiser on its plan, has also established a medical school and accepted its first class four years ago. The school is affiliated with Hofstra University, and it diverges from the traditional model of two years of classes followed by two years of training. Instead, incoming students are immediately subjected to hands-on clinical training.

“It’s not a cloistered kind of arrangement where they spend time in the classroom memorizing things,” Michael Dowling, the school’s president and chief executive, said. “They’re actually out in the field doing things, which we believe is the best way to learn.”

Kaiser also wishes to focus on diversity by recruiting more minority students and teaching doctors how to care for a more diverse patient population. Diversity is one of medical education’s biggest issues, and many ethnic groups are underrepresented in medical schools. For example, Latinos make up approximately 17 percent of the U.S. population, but only approximately nine percent of medical students.

However, Kaiser will still face heavy competition from renowned medical schools, such as USC and UCLA. A medical school run by a company and not an established educational institution will certainly take some getting used to, since the concept is still fresh. Tuition will be consistent with that of other medical schools, and financial aid will be provided to disadvantaged students. The first graduating class in fall 2019 will consist of about 50 students, and enrollment will hopefully grow after that.