Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Medicine has received approval to develop the first ever three-year medical degree program, according to a press release issued by the institution.

The new Family Medicine Accelerated Track (FMAT) program was developed as part of the school’s initiative to address the shortage of primary-care doctors in the United States. Students who are accepted into the FMAT program can complete their medical degree in three years and at half the cost that traditional four-year medical doctor programs require.

Simon Williams, PhD, associate dean at TTUHSC School of Medicine, revealed that for the Fall 2010, only 10 students will be selected initially out of 140 incoming medical students. “Normally, we send 10 to 15 students each year into a [primary care] career, and we anticipate that will  increase,” Dr. Williams explained. “Our primary goal is to make [a dent] on the shortage of family medicine physicians.”

The FMAT program not only lowers the amount of debt that medical students acquire to fund their education, but also provides scholarships to  any incoming students who qualify. “The program design ensures that the educational experience of each student will satisfy all of the  requirements for awarding a degree of Doctor of Medicine,” said Dr. Williams. “The students will participate in additional activities during the revised three-year curriculum to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to be fully qualified and excellent primary-care physicians.”

“I think Texas Tech has challenged some assumptions and I think it’s good to challenge them. Others are going to be watching,” said John Prescott, chief academic officer for the A m e r i c a n Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). The FMAT program received approval from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), which is the accrediting authority for medical education programs leading to the MD degree in US and  Canadian medical schools. The FMAT program will begin accepting students from the Summer 2010 incoming class.

For more information about the FMAT three-year MD program, call (800) 743-2297 or visit www.ttuhsc.edu/com.