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Letter: Financial aid matters for medical students

In his recent column, Tasawwar Rahman ’26 makes it clear that medical school affordability is a major issue at Brown — which I know all too well. Four years ago, I walked through the Van Wickle Gates with friends I had just met over a PLME breakfast. We talked about how we’d attend the Warren Alpert Medical School together in four years — but only one of us made it there. 

The PLME means so much to me. From the moment I stepped into the PLME office in Arnold Lab, I felt welcomed by the PLME community. Dean Julianne Ip ’75 MD’78 RES’81 P’18 invited everyone to one-on-one advising meetings even before school started, and I still deeply cherish her mentorship and support. It is because of my love for the PLME that I write this letter about how we need more robust financial aid for Brown medical students.

It was not an easy decision to leave the PLME. For years, I thought my future was decided: I would go to Alpert with all of my friends, and we would continue to learn and grow together as medical students. I had developed meaningful relationships with my many mentors, and I looked forward to learning from them in medical school. This all came screeching to a halt when I spoke with the Office of Financial Aid three years ago. I learned that medical school financial aid packages would not come close to covering tuition without external loans. I began to question whether I would be able to attend medical school at all. I did not want to leave — and I still often wish that I could have stayed — but I realized that attending Alpert was not a real choice I could afford.

Not enough has changed since then. Rahman is right in pointing out that Brown’s peer medical schools provide generous financial aid and that this difference determines where medical students can afford to matriculate. I know this all too well as a 21st Century and Perelman Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

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Alpert is the only medical school in Rhode Island, where state officials have projected shortages of primary care physicians and patients are already struggling to see healthcare providers. Providence is among the four cities in Rhode Island that have been designated as Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas by the United States Health Resources and Services Administration. Thus, this is an issue not just for medical students, but for our broader community. Brown, Providence and Rhode Island officials should consider how they can sustainably support medical students, making medical school affordable and keeping more doctors in Rhode Island in the long run.

I am thankful for everything that Brown and the PLME have done for me and so many other Brunonians. But I know that we should be doing more. We cannot afford to turn away qualified students who want to serve their communities as physicians.

John Lin ’23 can be reached at john_lin@brown.edu. He is now a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania.

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