Hundreds of medical students to graduate, get licensed early to fight coronavirus

Hundreds of fourth-year medical students will soon graduate weeks early and receive provisional licenses to begin working in hospitals where coronavirus cases are surging.

Hundreds of fourth-year medical students will soon graduate weeks early and receive provisional licenses to begin working in hospitals where coronavirus cases are surging.

Urging the deans of all four Massachusetts medical schools to move up graduation dates, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders announced Thursday the state is ready to fast-track 90-day limited licenses with a one-page application.

“In the event that the schools provide [early graduations] – but that has to come from the deans – we’re prepared to provide almost automatic 90-day licenses,” Sudders said in a news conference. “So that we would have a cadre of physicians in Massachusetts.”

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Of the approximately 700 fourth-year medical students in the state, 192 attend Boston University’s School of Medicine, where graduation has now been moved up to April – one month early.

In a letter to students, Dr. Karen Antman, Dean of BUSM, addressed the decision that will allow students to graduate early, quickly earn limited licenses and work in teaching hospitals as interns right away, helping other physicians on the front lines battling the pandemic.

“Your class is clearly graduating at one of the most medically challenging times of the last century and will shortly be an important part of our country’s response to the COVID-19 challenge,” Antman wrote. “The faculty at graduation will be pleased to welcome you as valued colleagues to the practice of medicine, although somewhat earlier than expected.”

The announcement comes as the state confirmed 10 new deaths in Massachusetts Thursday, for a total of 25, with more than 2,400 patients testing positive for the virus.

Terence R. Flotte, Dean of the University of Massachusetts Medical School confirmed in a social media post the school’s plans to graduate students early.

“Our medical students have completed all of their graduation requirements,” Flotte said in a Facebook post Thursday, “are very well-prepared for the challenges before them and eager to contribute to the health of our patients and our communities.”

Peter Bates, Dean ad interim at Tufts University School of Medicine, told Boston 25 News, in a statement, the decision is an “important step [that] allows our students to begin putting their medical degrees to use and ease the stress on the health care system.”

Meanwhile, Harvard Medical School told Boston 25 News administrators have not yet made a final decision.

“As part of the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, Harvard Medical School is collaborating with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, hospitals and other medical schools in the region and is actively exploring the option of early graduation and granting of medical degrees to those students who meet the graduation requirements,” the school said in a statement. “This step would allow qualified MD graduates seeking to join the clinical workforce the ability to do so."