• In New York, the state hit the hardest by the coronavirus in the US, there are almost 40,000 reported cases.
  • In an attempt to conserve personal protective equipment and limit the spread of the virus, many medical schools around the country – including those in New York – have taken students out of hospital-based training.
  • Medical schools in New York City, like New York University and Columbia University, have decided to graduate some of their medical students early to join the fight against the pandemic. Other schools told Business Insider they’re considering the move as well.
  • “The fact that the university and our overall accrediting bodies were willing to extend this to us and kind of recruit us in the effort felt like a marker of the gravity of the situation,” Evan Gerber, a fourth year medical student at NYU, told Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

New York medical schools are turning their seniors into doctors three months early so that they can join the city’s fight against the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the New York University Grossman School of Medicine announced it would give some of its fourth-year medical students the opportunity to graduate early to intern at hospitals in New York City. Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons told Business Insider it plans to do the same.

Sixty-nine students from NYU’s graduating class of 122 have volunteered to step into hospitals on April 5. They’ll undergo orientation and training to prepare for their first day as interns. Doctors in the US are called interns during their first year of training, and work under the supervision of more experienced physicians.

New York City has been hit hard by the coronavirus

New York City has become the epicenter of the US outbreak, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo has warned hospitals may run short on workers and crucial supplies. The city has reported more than 23,000 cases of the coronavirus, accounting for more than half the state’s total.

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A spokesperson for NYU told Business Insider that the school decided to permit early graduation for its medical students "in response to the growing spread of COVID-19, and in response to Governor Cuomo's directive to get more physicians into the health system more quickly."

The decision is still pending approval from regulatory bodies, but Steven B. Abramson, a senior vice dean at NYU's medical school, said that he was optimistic that the plan would be approved.

'A marker of the gravity of the situation'

Evan Gerber, a fourth-year medical student at NYU, told Business Insider that when he got the opportunity to help fight the pandemic, the first thing he felt was relief.

"I've been wanting to get in this effort ever since all of this started to escalate," Gerber said. "We have all this training now and tools to meaningfully contribute, to alleviate some of the workload on our colleagues."

The second emotion he felt was nervousness, he said.

"The fact that the university and our overall accrediting bodies were willing to extend this to us and kind of recruit us in the effort felt like a marker of the gravity of the situation," he said.

Due to start his internship at Denver Health Medical Center in early June, Gerber said he plans to work in New York until mid-May so he can give himself enough time to quarantine before starting orientation at his new hospital.

Dr. Veronica Catanese, an alumna of NYU's medical school and co-secretary at the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, a regulatory body, told Business Insider in an email that the organization has been working with several other schools that may let their students graduate early.

Massachusetts medical schools are also graduating students early

Four Massachusetts medical schools-Boston University, Harvard, Tufts, and the University of Massachusetts-announced on Thursday similar decisions to graduate fourth year medical students early to work in area hospitals because of the pandemic. So far, there have been more than 2,400 reported cases of the COVID-19 virus in the state.

Other schools in New York City, like Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, are considering the move as well.

"Given the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves, and the overwhelming burden being placed on the healthcare system, we wanted to offer our fourth-year students the opportunity to volunteer in clinical (as well as non-clinical) settings in order to assist our clinical colleagues in any way they would find helpful," Einstein said in a statement.

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai told Business Insider that the school is currently developing plans to offer similar options to some fourth-year students.

'A crazy time to be becoming a new doctor'

Gaby Mayer, a medical student at NYU who is graduating early, told Business Insider that although it "is a crazy time to be becoming a new doctor," she feels as prepared as she'll ever be, especially since she wouldn't have been doing any clinical work between now and her original start date in July.

"I don't feel like I'm missing any skill set that I would have had if things had gone normally," Mayer said.

"I hope those watching and listening to stories also understand that we're doing our part and the part that they can do is continue to stay home and continue to promote social distancing," Mayer continued. "As we step up to help this fight against COVID, everyone has their part they can do at home too."