Letters to the Editor  |   February 2008
Debt Control for Young DOs
Author Affiliations
  • Ethan Wagner, DO
    Fishers, Ind
Article Information
Medical Education / Graduate Medical Education
Letters to the Editor   |   February 2008
Debt Control for Young DOs
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, February 2008, Vol. 108, 53-81. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2008.108.2.53
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, February 2008, Vol. 108, 53-81. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2008.108.2.53
To the Editor: An article published in the December 2007 issue of Money Magazine titled “Young Doctors in Debt,”1 told the troubling story of a young married couple, both of whom are resident osteopathic physicians. In the article, the two DOs discuss their difficulties in dealing with the severe financial pressures of their medical school debt and mortgage debt—$483,115 in student loans and $198,148 in mortgage loans. That is nearly $700,000 of debt! 
The Money Magazine article1 points out that the husband chose to attend Midwestern University/Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine (MWU/CCOM) in Downers Grove, Ill, over a program at a well-known allopathic university in the same state—even though going to the allopathic institution would have lowered his financial burden tremendously. At MWU/CCOM he took on $29,000 of tuition medical school debt annually. While there, he did not receive counseling regarding how best to handle his debt and other financial burdens. As a result, he and his wife became over-whelmed by their postgraduate financial responsibilities. 
I believe the Money Magazine article1 provides a revealing example of how the colleges of osteopathic medicine (COMs) and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) are directly responsible for the financial woes endured by many young osteopathic medical students and residents. The COMs and the AOA have done a disservice to us all by not exercising adequate control over the high costs of osteopathic medical education and by not appropriately advising osteopathic medical students about the heavy debt burdens they will face on graduation. The Money Magazine article1 notes that the husband was aware that he would finish osteopathic medical school with at least $200,000 in debt, but “...the message he got from the school...was `Don't worry about it. You're going to be able to pay it off someday. It'll all be taken care of.' “ 
That type of nonchalant attitude—from educational institutions and students—regarding debt and other financial obligations needs to change! Such a complacent attitude not only adversely affects the careers of young physicians, but the entire United States economy is hampered by the problem of excessive national (ie, public) debt, which is increasing at a rate of about $1.4 billion per day.2 
I believe it is the duty of the AOA to publish the salaries of the presidents and chief executive officers of all the COMs. Every osteopathic medical student has a right to know this information. Every COM—at least those that are publicly funded—should be required to adopt an open-book policy and share their salary data with the public. I would love to see an article in JAOA—The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association featuring this information, including a graph showing how increases in COM tuition coincide, presumably, with increases in COM administrative salaries. That would be an interesting article indeed. 
The osteopathic medical profession needs to rein in the serious problem of osteopathic medical student debt and, in the process, create an educational and professional environment that is more amenable to student success. Controlling our debt will also help generate a more favorable impression of our profession among the public and attract the finest students in medicine to our COMs. 
Mannes G. Young doctors in debt. Money Magazine. December 2007:120-126. Available at: Accessed December 22, 2007.
US national debt clock; December 22, 2007. Bureau of the Public Debt data [Ed Hall Web site]. Available at: Accessed December 22, 2007.