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Brainstorm Health: Free NYU Medical Tuition, EpiPen Generic, National Measles Outbreak

August 16, 2018, 8:03 PM UTC

Good afternoon, readers. This is Sy.

On Thursday, NYU made a stunning announcement: All of the renowned institution’s medical students will be awarded full tuition scholarships. That includes current students, the remainder of whose tuition will be covered under the program, and every single incoming and future medical student at the NYU School of Medicine, in perpetuity, whose tuition costs will be covered in full, according to the university.

This is, it goes without saying, not a cheap endeavor. The yearly tuition costs covered under this medical scholarship amount to just over $55,000 per year, and the effort involved raising some $450 million to date (of more than $600 million planned) from supporters such as Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone and his wife Elaine, the Wall Street Journal reports. (NYU’s medical center was renamed after Langone following the billionaire’s $200 million donation to it in 2008.)

The practical implications for students pursuing medicine are myriad, especially at a school consistently ranked towards the top of its peers. “This decision recognizes a moral imperative that must be addressed, as institutions place an increasing debt burden on young people who aspire to become physicians,” said Dr. Robert I. Grossman, Dean of NYU School of Medicine and CEO of NYU Langone Health in a statement.

The crushing weight of debt that medical education places on students—debt that averaged some $191,000 across all schools and more than $206,000 for private schools in 2017, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC)—has consequences for prospective students and the future contours of U.S. medicine alike. Low-income and minority students aspiring to become healers may forgo those dreams out of financial apprehension; those who do attend may feel pressure to pursue niche medical specialties that pay higher salaries so they can recoup their tuition costs rather than pursue broader primary care careers.

The latter reality is particularly problematic since, according to the AAMC, there is a projected doctor shortage of between 42,600 and 121,300 physicians relative to Americans’ health care needs by 2030. While that figure includes estimated shortages for both specialists and general practitioners, the NYU program could theoretically reduce the burden of entry to either and, the hope goes, free up would-be doctors to pursue the careers they want to begin with.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


The latest digital health entrant is... Best Buy? Amazon. Microsoft. Apple. Alphabet. Best Buy. Ok, so one of those things isn't quite like the others. But Best Buy is joining all of those other firms in a key ambition: Elbowing its way into the digital health space. On Wednesday, the company announced that it will shell up $800 million to acquire health and medical alert services provider GreatCall. GreatCall is focused on seniors, which, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly explains, is a natural fit for the big box tech retailer: "Technology can improve the quality of life of the aging population," and Best Buy is positioned to help these people given "our experience with technology and serving customers in their home," he said in a statement. (Fortune)


FDA approves EpiPen generic as shortage looms. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Thursday finally cleared a generic version of Mylan's EpiPen—the first approved generic product of its kind and manufactured by Teva Pharmaceuticals, whose shares jumped 7.5% on the news. There have been several EpiPen competitors, including Adrenaclick, Auvi-Q, and Mylan's own "authorized generic" version of its own brand name product, available on the market since controversy broke over Mylan's gigantic price increases for the severe allergy-busting epinephrine device. But parents may still feel concerns given an ongoing EpiPen shortage fueled by manufacturing troubles at a plant run by Pfizer unit Meridian Medical Technologies, especially as the school year is set to begin (and, for some, already has). (FDA)


A preventable measles outbreak invites FDA scorn. A measles outbreak that has hit 21 states and District of Columbia is inviting the scorn of FDA Comissioner Scott Gottlieb. "This is an avoidable tragedy. #VaccinesWork," wrote Gottlieb, a prolific social media communicator, via his official Twitter feed late Wednesday. Most of the 107 afflicted individuals were unvaccinated, and the recorded cases are set to surpass 2017's figure of 118 infections. (Fortune)


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee

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