Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The student loan deal and the primary care physician shortage: problems on the way?

Since Congress reached the new student loan deal last week, negative effects for graduate and professional students have emerged--and the worst consequences may affect the medical field.

According to the Washington Post, the federal government "will no longer pay the interest on new graduate loans while students are in school and for six months after they finish." In short, graduate and professional students are no longer eligible for subsidized loans. The Post reports that this will increase the amount such students must pay by $18 billion.

To make matters worse, the cost of graduate and professional education has risen dramatically in the past few years. Increased cost combined with a longer compound interest period will make graduate and professional school exponentially more expensive and discourage otherwise excellent candidates from attending.

This presents a particular problem for the medical field. The US has been facing a primary care physician shortage since at least 2003, when individual states and professional organizations began to express concerns about meeting increasing medical need in a variety of specialties. "Approximately 44,000 governmental public health jobs at the state and local levels, or 19% of the 2008 workforce, were lost between 2008 and 2010 due to the economic downturn," causing even greater need. After the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the consequent increase in insured patients, sources projected a physician shortage of 150,000 by the year 2025. With ACA's constitutionality newly affirmed, projections are sure to be revised, but will almost certainly remain large.

The medical school establishment has taken steps to address this looming shortage. However, federal funding for medical education, infrastructure, research, and residency positions continues to have a large effect on their success.

While ACA does provide additional funding for health care training, these resources were allocated when health care reform was initially passed in March 2010--well before the current student loan deal came under consideration. With the dramatic increase in the cost of medical education, it seems very likely that the provisions of the ACA will not be enough to stave off health care shortages, particularly in rural and underserved areas.

The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) recently called on Congress to protect Stafford loans for graduate and professional students, stating that "more than 86 percent of physicians-in-training rely on student loans to pay for medical school" and graduate with "an average debt of more than $160,000." However, since the final student loan deal does not protect subsidized Stafford loans for graduate and professional students, medical student debt seems certain to increase--and numbers of students willing and able to attend medical school seem certain to decrease.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Common homophone confusion: pore/pour

This series examines frequently confused word pairs and groups to help students write accurate, impressive essays.

In the course of my normal internet reading, I see people misuse these two terms constantly, and nearly always in the context of one particular idiomatic phrase.

To pore is to examine minutely and in depth, in the hope of gaining knowledge. This is drawn from the noun version of pore--a miniscule opening, particularly in the skin.

To pour is to inundate with liquid, generally from a container such as a pitcher or glass.

So if I see the phrase "I poured over the magazine," I have to wonder exactly what liquid the writer used to douse that magazine, and how difficult it was to clean up afterward.

If I see the sentence "Elmer spent hours pouring over the recipe," I imagine milk, broth, red wine vinegar, or olive oil consistently streaming from a bottle in Elmer's hand to cascade over the poor recipe in his battered cookbook.

And if I read the sentence "The cafe now offers pour-over coffee," I know the baristas are spending their time carefully brewing individual cups by streaming boiling water over coffee grounds in one-cup increments--not that they are spending their time staring, fascinated, at the coffee as it gradually drips through its filter.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Common homophone confusion: lead/lead/led

This series examines frequently confused word pairs and groups to help students write accurate, impressive essays.

This set of words is difficult to distinguish because they can all be pronounced the same way, but aren't always. Furthermore, the different pronunciations indicate different meanings. Further furthermore, two of the three words are different conjugations of the same verb. It's very confusing.

"Lead" can be pronounced with either a long /ee/ sound or a short /e/ sound. The second pronunciation of "lead" is identical to the only pronunciation of "led."

"Lead" with a long /ee/ (as in "tree") is a verb meaning to act as a leader, to guide or direct others, or to go first. "Lead" can also be used as a noun indicating a leash or placement, or an adjective meaning first.

"Unaware that winter would become an issue, Napoleon chose to lead his army toward Moscow."
"Jim took the lead on the PR team's new project."

"Lead" with a short /e/ (as in "bed") is a soft, dense, heavy metal. It's symbolized as Pb on the periodic table, and has an atomic number of 82. This version of "lead" is a noun only.

"The company made pipes insulated with a lead casing."
"This lead is so malleable that I can dent it with my fingernail!"

"Led," again with a short /e/, is the past tense of the verb "to lead" (with a long /ee/).

"Our guide led the way through the treacherous terrain."
"He led me to believe it was raining."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Common homophone confusion: wring/ring

This series examines frequently confused word pairs and groups to help students write accurate, impressive essays.

"To wring" is a verb meaning to twist violently. It can also indicate strangulation or twisting the neck, as in "to wring (one's) neck." This phrase is often used as a slang expression indicating anger, though not necessarily actual murder. Of course, if you happen to be raising chicken or other poultry for meat, you may end up using this term literally quite a bit more often than not.

This verb can also be used metaphorically to mean "to force." In this usage, it is often paired with the word "out." For instance, often people wring out wet items to squeeze out the moisture.

"Please wring out your washcloth before you hang it up."
"The detective skillfully wrung a confession from the perpetrator."

A "ring" is a noun indicating a round hoop or circle. For instance, children playing "ring-around-a-rosy" dance in a circle. People use precious metal rings as jewelry, key rings to organize keys, and three rings to organize circuses. "To ring" can also be used as a verb meaning "to encircle," though this is less common than the noun usage.

"With this ring, I thee wed."
"The campers ringed the campfire to listen to the ghost story."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

US News releases 2013 law school rankings

US News and World Report has released its 2013 law school rankings. Does your school make the cut?

Law school rankings 2013

1. Yale
2. Stanford
3. Harvard
4. Columbia
5. Chicago
6. NYU
7. Berkeley, Penn, UVA
10. Michigan-Ann Arbor
11. Duke
12. Northwestern
13. Georgetown
14. Cornell

Law school rankings 2012

1. Yale
2. Harvard
3. Stanford
4. Columbia
5. Chicago
6. NYU
7. Michigan, Penn
9. Berkeley, UVA
11. Duke
12. Northwestern
13. Cornell
14. Georgetown, Texas

While the T-14 schools have shifted in order, the base group remains the same. Only Texas has fallen from the running.

The top six schools remain in place, with the exception of Stanford and Harvard, which have exchanged ranks. At #7, Penn holds steady, joined by former 9th place ties Penn and UVA. Michigan falls 3 places to #10, and Duke and Northwestern hold steady at #11 and #12. Cornell falls one place from #13 to #14, while Georgetown makes the opposite move, and Texas leaves the top 14 completely.

For more insights, Above the Law comments on the new law school rankings and provides a fascinating links roundup.