Taking the stage with the first 64 students at the Central Michigan University College of Medicine’s inaugural white-coat ceremony Sunday, Kush Sharma, 21, was proud his class will lead the way for the future of medicine at CMU.
“One of the driving reasons I came here was that it’s often hard to say you were first,” he said. “But I’ll be proud to say that my classmates, and I will be pioneering this med school,”
Sharma, from Kalamazoo, finished his undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan last year. He was joined at the ceremony, on Aug. 4, by the rest of class and 450 friends and family of the students being inducted to the school.
As physician instructors draped the coats over the students’ shoulders, a long-standing tradition of medical schools was upheld. CMED is the 137th medical school in the country.
Endeavoring to serve the needs of Michigan’s urban and rural communities that are presently facing a shortage of physicians, CMED planned for its first class to be comprised 80 percent Michigan students in hopes that they will give back to their communities.
“If you look at the shortage, it is exacerbated by poor distribution,” CMED’s founding dean Ernest Yoder said. “We’ll be more successful to place physicians in those rural and underserved areas if we have residents of those areas.”
Although the first class was set to get to work the day after the ceremony with orientation and the beginnings of their studies, Yoder and other administrators at CMED were already planning the curriculum and courses for their second year.
“We’re going to be measuring the curriculum, achieving the objectives that have been set,” Yoder said of the next year at CMED. “I’m sure we’ll be finding things we need to tweak.”
According to Yoder, CMED is still working towards accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the national authority of medical schools leading to a doctor of medicine degree.
CMED did well in the preliminary stage of accreditation, Yoder said, and is now moving into the provisional stage. The college will be hosting a site visit by the LCME in November 2014, he said.
Yoder also said that construction for the Saginaw expansion will begin this fall. He said that third- year students will be shifted to the Saginaw-based campus for the rest of their training.
Yoder hoped to increase next year’s first-year class to 100 students. He said that when all classes are 100 students, the college will be at capacity.
“It was really tough envisioning this thing three years ago,” he said. “This (ceremony) is our first look at reality.”
David Hirsch, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, was the guest speaker at the event and engaged the class in an interactive discussion about ethics and morality when serving as a physician.
“Wearing the white coat means moral practice, human practice,” Hirsch said. “Practicing medicine, things can get very intimate, very scary. There are all sorts of influences on how we decide things. It is moment-to-moment bits of reality.”
Neuroscience instructor Julien Rossiguol is certain that the students are up to the task.
Developing the neuroscience course for future students at CMED, Rossiguol said that the college’s goal of addressing local physician shortages is one that often comes secondary to other medical schools, even abroad.
“I think serving primarily local areas is great,” he said. “I came from France, and we have the same shortages there, but not a lot of schools say it is their first goal. Knowing more Michigan areas is great for the community.
“The students are a great group. I’m sure they’ll be a great class. I hope I will be as good as they will.”
Ann Arbor medical student Emily Fortin came to CMED after working closely with medical professionals at the Special Olympics in Mount Pleasant for three years. She hopes to get her degree in physical medication and rehabilitation and then return to the annual event with much more to offer.
“They want us to stay here and serve our community,” she said. “It’s really important to me to give to my community. Getting more students involved in the Special Olympics would be great.”
And India medical student Suavia Girgla, a resident of Farmington said she hopes to follow in the footsteps of her father, an anesthesiologist.
“We are the ones who will have the opportunity to set it up; you can mold your education into what you want it to be,” she said of being in the inaugural class. “Med schools evolve, and we get to set the foundation.”