Medical Students Given Early Graduation Option Due to COVID-19
The College of Medicine – Phoenix and College of Medicine – Tucson are offering early graduation to the class of 2020. This option is for qualified students who wish to serve the unprecedented health needs that have emerged in the COVID-19 pandemic.

University of Arizona Health Sciences and University Communications
March 30, 2020


Photo courtesy of College of Medicine – Phoenix
Photo courtesy of College of Medicine – Phoenix

The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson and College of Medicine ­– Phoenix have announced that they will offer class of 2020 students set to graduate later this spring the opportunity to apply for early graduation.

The decision was driven by projected health care staffing demands due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I am extremely proud of our medical students who are exhibiting the very best in land-grant values during this time of need for the state. This should have a substantial impact on both resting and care during this crisis," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins.

On March 26, the United States passed Italy and China as the country with the most confirmed cases of COVID-19. On Saturday, it became the first country to confirm 100,000 cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Sunday, 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 from COVID-19. The respiratory illness, which emerged in China's Hubei Province, was first reported to the World Health Organization on Dec. 31.

"Given the extraordinary times in which we find ourselves, and the rapidly growing burden that the pandemic is placing on our health care system, we stand in admiration of our students who wish to pursue this option and will do our best to facilitate these requests," said Guy Reed, dean of the College of Medicine – Phoenix.

In a message sent March 29 to students, College of Medicine – Tucson Dean Michael M.I. Abecassis and Deputy Dean for Education Kevin Moynahan thanked the students for their many volunteer efforts to advocate for and support the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes a student-led volunteer effort involving more than 75 medical students assisting frontline physicians with babysitting, dog walking and grocery services.

Student requests to graduate early will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. To be eligible, a 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.

Required documentation for the requests must be submitted by 8 a.m. on April 6. A College of Medicine Student Progress Committee will meet that day to consider the requests, and the newly conferred M.D.s could begin work in a clinical setting by mid-April. College of Medicine – Tucson students should submit their materials to Kris Slaney, director of student records. College of Medicine – Phoenix students should send documentation to Wendy Finch, registrar.

More than 200 students – 115 in Tucson and about 90 in Phoenix – are expected to graduate in the class of 2020.

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've completed requirements to graduate and begin their residencies early in order to help overworked physicians in the fight against the new coronavirus.

Extra info

For the latest on the University of Arizona response to the novel coronavirus, visit the university's COVID-19 webpage.

For UANews coverage of COVID-19, visit


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Marian Frank

College of Medicine – Phoenix