Kaiser Permanente’s New School of Medicine Will Waive Tuition for Its First Five Classes Starting in 2020

Kaiser Permanente is opening a school of medicine in Pasadena in 2020. They would waive tuition for its first five graduating classes– class of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024– in an attempt to jump-start medical careers minus the typical crushing student debt.

The Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine said it has received preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, and will begin accepting applications from prospective students in June 2019 for admission in the summer of 2020.

Kaiser School of Medicine under construction in Pasadena, California

Unlike the universities that open medical schools, it is not already a degree-granting institution. This will be a unique learning institution for Kaiser.

Each class will have just 48 students, smaller than average for a medical school. Tuition would typically cost $55,000 a year, saving each student $275,000. While the school is not planning to cover tuition beyond the first five classes, it would provide “very generous financial aid” based on need after that.

By eliminating the financial burden of a medical education, the school hopes that more students will choose family medicine and other vital but lower-paid specialties in the primary care field, or work in under-served areas since they wouldn’t be burdened with overwhelming debt.

Dr. Mark A. Schuster, the school’s founding dean and CEO and a pediatrician who came to Kaiser Permanente from Harvard Medical School, said the health care giant is developing a school committed to providing “outstanding patient care in our nation’s complex and evolving health care system.”

What will set it apart most, Dr. Schuster said, is teaching Kaiser Permanente’s model of integrated care, in which doctors work on teams with other types of medical providers, including pharmacists, psychologists and social workers, supported by technology and data, to make sure none of a patient’s health needs slip through the cracks.

Students will skip the lecture-type science courses that typically dominate the first year of medical school and immediately start “integrated clerkships” in Kaiser Permanente hospitals and clinics, starting with primary care and adding surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics and psychiatry the second year.

Another focus will be teaching medical students how to be aggressive champions for their patients. Dr. Schuster said one such role model was Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician in Flint, Mich., whose analysis of local children’s blood tests proved that the city’s water was causing widespread lead poisoning.

“We want our students to have the confidence and skill to do what she did and speak truth to power,” Dr. Schuster said. “That involves being able to go outside the clinic, write the op-ed when needed, go to a community advocacy group and say, ‘I need your help.’ I don’t know if other schools are teaching that.”

In addition to Dr. Schuster, Kaiser has hired about a dozen other people to serve as deans, department chairs and a senior vice president.  Kaiser Permanente’s medical school will be one of four new ones in Southern California.


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