UA College of Medicine – Tucson Students Given Option for Early Graduation to COVID-19

In coordination with the University of Arizona and College of Medicine – Phoenix, the College of Medicine – Tucson is offering early graduation to the Class of 2020. This option is for qualified students who wish to serve as new physicians to meet the unprecedented health needs that have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson has announced that it will offer its Class of 2020 students set to graduate later this spring the opportunity to apply for early graduation.

A similar alternative was offered to University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix students on Friday. Both measures are driven by projected health-care staffing demands because of the COVID-19 pandemic raging across the nation and globe.

On March 26, the United States passed Italy and China as the country with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections and, on March 28, it became the first country to confirm 100,000 cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Sunday evening, March 29, there were more than 140,000 U.S. cases with nearly 4,500 recoveries and 2,500 deaths. Worldwide, nearly 34,000 people have died due to the respiratory illness, led by Italy, Spain and China. The illness, which emerged in China’s Hubei Province, was first reported to the World Health Organization on Dec. 31, 2019.

In a message sent March 29 to students, College of Medicine – Tucson Dean Michael M.I. Abecassis, MD, MBA, and Deputy Dean for Education Kevin Moynahan, MD, said, “Given the potentially anticipated needs in health-care delivery during the next months, and in coordination with the University of Arizona and the College of Medicine – Phoenix, the College of Medicine – Tucson will be offering the opportunity for early graduation to the Class of 2020. This is optional for qualified students who wish to serve the unprecedented health needs of our community during the COVID-19 pandemic as new physicians.”

Drs. Abecassis and Moynahan also thanked the students for their many volunteer efforts to advocate for and support our community during this COVID-19 pandemic. This includes a student-led volunteer effort involving more than 75 medical students to assist “frontline” physicians with babysitting, dog-walking and grocery services.

Under the early graduation plan, senior student requests to allow them to graduate early will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. To be eligible, the student must have been scheduled to complete all graduation requirements by March 27 and have an elective or vacation scheduled afterward. Students with a critical care rotation, a sub-internship, or a surgical subspecialty scheduled now are not eligible for early graduation. A pause in all College of Medicine – Tucson in-person clinical rotations for medical students went into effect March 17.

Required documentation for the requests from Tucson medical students needs to be submitted by 8 a.m., Monday, April 6, to Kris Slaney, the college’s director of student records.

The College of Medicine – Tucson convocation ceremony for Class of 2020 graduates was scheduled for May 14, but the formal event at Centennial Hall was canceled due to COVID-19. Convocation plans are under way for an innovative virtual option that will be announced soon. A majority of the 115 students in the class are eligible for this early graduation offer.

Normally, recent medical school graduates report in June to their first assignment as physicians with residency program training beginning July 1. Across the country, however, medical schools are making allowances for those students who have completed requirements to graduate and begin their residencies early in order to help overworked physicians in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.