Largest Class in UW School of Medicine and Public Health History Begins

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MADISON – The largest entering class in school history – 168 students – has just begun its first year of medical education at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
And fortunately for the residents of Wisconsin, the class includes 18 students in a specialized program that focuses on underserved populations in rural Wisconsin.
"The University of Wisconsin is committed to helping Wisconsin address the serious projected shortage of doctors, which is expected to affect in particular rural areas," says UW School of Medicine and Public Health Dean Dr. Robert N. Golden. "Our state has a higher proportion of citizens living in rural areas compared to the national average. It also has a lower percentage of doctors practicing in rural areas. We can help change those statistics by developing programs to attract and retain physicians in rural Wisconsin."
For many years, class size hovered around 150, says Lucy Wall, assistant dean for admissions at UW School of Medicine and Public Health. But the school this year substantially increased the number of students admitted to the MD program.
In 2007, the UW School of Medicine and Public Health created the Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine (WARM), a special MD program that selects and trains students committed to future practices in rural communities across the Badger State.
In the first year of the program, the school enrolled five WARM students, with the goal of enrolling a total of 25 first-year students by 2011.
"But interest in the program has been greater than we expected, so we have accelerated the growth in our WARM student admissions the past two years," Wall says.
The 18 new WARM students enrolled this year have all expressed a commitment to rural practice. The past academic performance of all members of the Class of 2013 remains as high as ever, says Wall, with a mean cumulative grade point average of 3.72. Nine of the medical students have master's degrees and three have PhDs.
Just more than 50 percent earned degrees from Wisconsin colleges and universities; other degree-granting institutions outside Wisconsin included Harvard, Stanford and the University of Chicago. But strong academics aren't the only thing the admissions committee wants to see in applicants.
"We are equally interested in each individual's personal qualities and characteristics," says Wall. "We want to know what experiences they have had in life, what activities they have engaged in, the extent to which they may have gone out of their comfort zone to do other things in life."
So it should come as no surprise that members of the Class of 2013 include a former collegiate women's hockey player, hospice volunteer, intern for Mayor Richard M. Daley in Chicago, martial-arts instructor, Special Olympics volunteer, legislative intern for the Wisconsin Senate, rancher, and burn-unit volunteer. One student has had open-heart surgery twice, and two are hearing-impaired. All are healthy and thriving. What people have experienced in the past helps shape them for today and tomorrow, says Wall.
"These things are important because they can translate into how you relate to classmates, faculty, other members of the health care team and definitely patients," she says. "We're interested in a person's character."

Date Published: 09/03/2009

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