By Janet Lorin
NEW YORK — Mark Moy came to the United States from China, paid his way through medical school at the University of Illinois in the 1970s and became an emergency room physician.
His son Matthew, a third-year medical student, has racked up $190,000 in debt and still has a year to go. Accrued interest on his medical-school loans has swelled his balance by 13 percent over three years.
"When I think about it, it will keep me up at night," said Matthew Moy, 28. "I'm dreading the exit interview when I will find out exactly how much I'll have to pay back."
The next generation of U.S. physicians is being saddled with record debt amid a looming shortage of doctors needed to cope with a rising elderly population. The burgeoning debt burden may be turning students away from primary care, which pays about $200,000 a year, toward more lucrative specialties and scaring off low-income and minority students fearful of taking on big loans.
Median tuition and fees at private medical schools was $50,309 in the 2012-2013 academic year, more than 16 times the cost when Moy's father became a doctor. The median-education debt for 2012 medical-school graduates was $170,000, including loans taken out for undergraduate studies and excluding interest. That compares with an average $13,469 in 1978, said Jay Youngclaus, co-author of a February 2013 report on medical school debt.
Even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's son can't expect to escape the debt burden. The elder Bernanke testified before Congress last year that his son is on track to leave medical school with $400,000 in loans. The figure may include accrued interest and undergraduate costs. His son attends Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, according to the school directory. Bernanke, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment.