Cornell and Columbia join NYU to allow medical students to graduate early to join coronavirus fight

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. is now about 165,000 people and more than 3,100 people have died nationwide. Now, at least three New York City medical schools have made an unprecedented move to aid in the battle against the pandemic.

Located in the epicenter of the outbreak in North America, New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons have announced that students in the 2020 graduating class will be allowed to finish early to help in the fight against the coronavirus.

Students at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons will graduate in just two weeks on April 15 and they will immediately be offered temporary employment at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital “to help with the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a letter sent to final year students.

The school reassured its students that they were ready for their important role in the fight against COVID-19. 
“At this point in your education, each of you has demonstrated that you possess the knowledge and clinical skills to play a vital role in this effort,” senior faculty members wrote.

Weill Cornell Medicine Dean Augustine M.K. Choi told CBS News that there will be an option for early graduation for the class of 2020 “in response to an executive order issued by the governor.” 

“In these extraordinary times, they will join the ranks of their practicing medical colleagues to help ease the burden that the coronavirus has placed on our healthcare system,” Dean Choi wrote. “We are proud of these medical students who are eager to mobilize and help.”

Last week, New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine announced that they were fast-forwarding the graduation time frame.

“In response to the growing spread of COVID-19, and in response to Governor [Andrew] Cuomo’s directive to get more physicians into the health system more quickly, NYU Grossman School of Medicine and NYU have agreed to permit early graduation for its medical students,” NYU Langone spokeswoman Kate Malenczak told CBS News.

The decision was pending approval from the New York State Department of Education, Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, according to Malenczak.

In an email sent to students and obtained by emergency medical physicians at Brief19, the individual’s decision to graduate early will be voluntary and granted only if interested students meet the university’s graduation requirements and if they agree to work as a medical doctor at NYU’s internal medicine or emergency medicine departments. The email details that students will be paid as interns and that they will join the workforce as soon as April.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said “it’s all hands on deck” and thanked the university following its announcement. 

Faced with the growing crisis, Cuomo has called on “former” health care workers to rejoin the workforce in order to support health systems stressed by the coronavirus. Over 76,000 medical professionals have signed up to bulk up the health care force, including retired doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists.