CHICAGO — Physicians and medical students at the Annual Meeting of the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates adopted policies intended to reduce financial burdens for medical school graduates and expand on AMA’s work to support the mental health and wellness of medical trainees. The policies adopted include:

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Reform

AMA delegates adopted policy calling for an immediate change in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to allow physicians to receive loan forgiveness when they practice in an Indian Health Service (IHS), Tribal, or Urban Indian Health Program, similar to physicians practicing in a Veterans Administration facility. The policy aims to address urgent physician shortages in the IHS and other programs to increase access to care for patients in rural or underserved areas. The AMA has long advocated for avenues to help new medical school graduates, most of whom graduate with about $200,000 in medical student-loan debt.

“This is a win-win for medical students and tribal communities,” said AMA Immediate Past President Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH. “About 83 million Americans live in areas that don’t have sufficient access to a primary care physician. That is unacceptable. At the same time, students are graduating from medical school with huge financial burdens. Working under the IHS or other similar programs offers a great learning experience for new physicians as they serve communities that so desperately need better access to medical care.”

Transforming the USMLE Step 3 Exam

AMA delegates adopted policy which supports changing the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 3 and Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States (COMLEX-USA) Level 3 from a numerically scored examination to a pass/fail examination and changing the current two-day examination to a one-day exam. The policy also calls for residents taking the exam to be allowed time off to take the exam without having to use their paid time off (PTO) or vacation time. Physicians in training already work long hours caring for patients while also being required to take numerous examinations, such as USMLE Step 3 and COMLEX-USA Level 3, to demonstrate their knowledge. This action seeks to reduce the stress and burnout of meeting these multiple demands.

“Preparing for and taking these exams is time-consuming, costly, and stressful,” said Aliya Siddiqui, MS, a member of the AMA Board of Trustees. “As medical graduates and residents are embarking on their careers and juggling heavy workloads, they are being forced to use valuable time off to take these exams. Making changes to the testing process will only increase the time that new physicians are able to spend learning in clinical settings with patients.”

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.