Shortly after I started working at The New York Times, a friend in medical school called me and suggested I write about the lily-white, heavily monied culture of medical education.

As I delved into reporting, I learned that every stage of medical training requires deep financial reserves. First come the MCAT-prep courses, the application fees, the flights to schools around the country for interviews. Then, once you’re accepted, there are hundreds of dollars to be spent on textbooks and flash-card banks and tutoring, not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of tuition. Some students swipe their parents’ credit cards; others grit their teeth and take out loans, or hold back on buying pricey academic resources (study guides, exam fees) while hoping their grades won’t suffer.