Columbia medical student reciting Hippocratic oath at graduation

To Increase Physician Ranks, Columbia Medical Students Will Graduate Early

Medical students in their final year at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons will graduate a month early and be offered temporary employment at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital to help with the COVID-19 pandemic. Students will graduate on April 15; the original graduation date was May 20.

Below is the letter sent to students on March 26:

Dear VP&S Class of 2020,

We are enormously proud of all you have learned and contributed during your enrollment at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S). You have supported each other and your fellow students across the medical school, and VP&S will always be a better place because of you.

We appreciate that world events have disrupted what otherwise would be a joyous conclusion to your years of hard work. Social distancing and the cancellation of graduation exercises will preclude a variety of group and family celebrations, including the very moving recitation of the Hippocratic Oath in front of tens of thousands of attendees at the Columbia University graduation.

In this time of local and national need, physicians and other health care professionals around the world are providing care for patients of the coronavirus pandemic under extraordinary circumstances. Hospitals in many countries are overwhelmed. The number of confirmed cases in the New York City area climbs every day, and we have begun redeploying physicians and clinical staff to help us manage the surge of seriously ill patients in our emergency department and on our hospital inpatient units. 

Many of you have asked how you can help in this time of great need. At this point in your education, each of you has demonstrated that you possess the knowledge and clinical skills to play a vital role in this effort. With this in mind, and given the urgent need for additional physicians, Columbia University has decided to move up the VP&S graduation to April 15. For those of you who have not yet taken the capstone Ready for Residency (R4R) course, it will be given in an accelerated format. 

We will then give all graduates the option to be employed by NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital (NYP) until you depart to start your residency (or longer, if you wish, for those who will be staying at NYP). If you are leaving the NYC area for residency, you will also be able to volunteer at your new institution. Because of residency credentialing requirements, we currently do not anticipate that this employment will count toward your overall time in residency. For those of you who do not choose this option, we may also have a variety of non-clinical volunteer needs, especially for those in the NYC area.

We recognize that early graduation raises issues about financial aid, housing, and travel arrangements. We will guarantee that you will not be adversely affected in terms of any documented financial aid commitments, even if from outside of Columbia University, because of this one-month advancement in your graduation date. Graduates will also be able to remain in their student housing through their current lease if they do not volunteer. Those who opt for this employment will be able to remain in housing for the duration of their current lease or the duration of their temporary NYP employment, whichever is longer. You will soon hear more about a virtual VP&S graduation celebration.

We all wish that external realities had not interrupted plans of all sorts. We believe that early graduation and opportunities to help the health care system are the best ways for us to meet our commitments to you, your educations, and your futures, as well as for you to have the ability to contribute to the public good.

Thank you again for all you have contributed to VP&S, and best wishes on your professional and personal lives as outstanding physicians.  


Lee Goldman, MD

Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine


Jonathan Amiel, MD

Interim Co-Vice Dean for Education

Senior Associate Dean for Curricular Affairs


Lisa Mellman, MD

Interim Co-Vice Dean for Education

Senior Associate Dean for Student Affairs