[Wildcat Online: opinions] [ad info]





Forced philanthropy?


Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Colin McCullough

By Colin McCullough
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
November 18, 1999
Talk about this story

Is there a pro bono Doctor in the house?" Soon U of A Medical School graduates may be able to respond with a resounding "Yes," if the Arizona Board of Regents follows through, and approves one of three plans to make community service a mandatory requirement for all students in Arizona's Medical and Law schools as well as Arizona State's Law School. While the three proposals being presented to the ABOR are drawing some criticism, they could teach the future judges and doctors of America their most valuable lesson yet - philanthropy.

This is perhaps one of the best moves the Board of Regents has made in years, as it will force students to step back from the grind of academia and focus on their real incentives for pursuing education at an even higher level. The two roots of 'philanthropy,' 'phil' meaning love and 'anthro' meaning man, come together to mean a love of fellow man; this is something that we all could afford to learn a little more of. The attorneys and doctors of the future not only will have knowledge in the fields they are practicing, but a better understanding of why they are practicing in these fields.

The professions that these schools prepare their students for are based on two main concepts - helping people feel better and searching for justice for the people. By placing students in an environment where they are forced to do work for the sake of doing a good deed, they see the work for what it is. This could be helpful to students in two ways.

Early exposure to pro bono work related to the school to which they are applying could allow a student to realize that medicine or law is in fact not what he or she wants to get involved in at all. This could save money in law and medical school application fees and possibly more in their lifetime if they avoid chasing a career that doesn't interest them.

Under the current system, the salaries commanded by attorneys and doctors can be among the most lucrative of all professions. This, directly or indirectly, can be responsible for an increased interest at any sixth-grade career fair. Current statistics indicate that an average starting attorney makes $59,000 and a starting doctor makes $65,000.

This allows the Board of Regents to let all serious applicants know that practicing law and practicing medicine in Arizona is about more than dollar signs and sets a positive trend in the state.

A new standard could be set. Some students will be forced, by the hand that is the Board of Regents - some unwillingly at first - to explore what they might otherwise never consider. They'll see a part of life they may otherwise have never encountered.

While a glut of plastic surgeons and personal injury lawyers may soon invade America, there will always be a need for doctors to work with organizations such as Operation Smile (a non-profit organization that does plastic surgery for children born with major deformities in developing countries). There will always be a need for judges to establish order in war-torn countries. This will cause students to consider these options, too.

Now, the reasons this plan could be ineffective are numerous, but discountable. It is true that graduate students are busy. But the time demanded would not need to be exorbitant. The focus could be on the participation of the students, not the hours involved. Additionally, students could be able to meet their requirements in the time leading up to acceptance or during the summers after they've enrolled. So, a potential lack of time commitment on the students' part is not reason to eliminate this plan.

Currently, community service is an unspoken requirement for all med school applicants; experience in a medical environment is a must for everyone hoping to gain admission into a prestigious school. Most of this experience comes cheaply to hospitals and nursing homes as students are waiting in line to get their chance to serve. This plan allows their work to be officially recognized.

Similarly, with law school, it is not unreasonable for a school that has been funded through a philanthropic act, namely a $115 million donation from James E. Rogers, to ask its students to follow suit.

In this, the Board of Regents has taken a step in the right direction by asking a little something more of its students than good grades and standardized test scores. It's something that we should all ask of ourselves.

[end content]
[ad info]