EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Maturing, growing as a full four-year medical program

2013-08-25T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Maturing, growing as a full four-year medical programBy Patrick Bankston nwitimes.com
August 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

In August 1972, four students of the class of 1976 began their study of medicine in Northwest Indiana at what was called then the Northwest Center for Medical Education. Those students spent only their first year here before moving to the main campus in Indianapolis to complete their training.

Forty-one years later, on Aug. 12, 24 new students from the Indiana University School of Medicine – Northwest class of 2017 began their studies of medicine in the Dunes Building on the IU Northwest campus in Gary. More than half the first-year class hails from our region.

They join 23 second-year students, 12 third-year students and eight fourth-year students. Seven of their colleagues, graduates of previous classes from the Gary campus, are in residencies all over the Midwest in fields such as anesthesia, family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, med-peds and emergency medicine.

Our third- and fourth-year program has grown each year from its start in 2010, and we are proud students report their educational experience has been wonderful. They are especially laudatory of our hundreds of Northwest Indiana volunteer physician faculty, who give up their time to teach them the latest in medical knowledge and procedures, while working with them in community clinics and at our 10 area hospitals.

Our affiliated hospitals have recognized the value-added of having our medical students train with their medical staff. They have gone out of their way to make the cumbersome details, like ID cards and access to computer systems, easier for students who sometimes only spend a month or so at any one site. They realize having medical students training with them brings an increased level of academic excellence to the care offered at their hospitals.

Student doctors who train here get to interact with attending physicians and patients directly and earlier in their careers than most other students.

Usually our faculty only have two students working with him or her at any one time, so students at the Northwest Campus are treated as junior colleagues, assisting the physician, with his/her supervision, in every aspect of care.

In addition, IU Northwest, uniquely in our region, is host to a number of other health care professional programs, such as nursing, radiological sciences, dental hygiene, social work, the school of public and environmental affairs and health information management, which offer enhanced opportunities for our medical students to learn along with their future colleagues as part of a health care team.

We offer our students a rich experience, including the chance to work with patients in an urban, underserved environment, where patients have more problems and the diseases and challenges of our medical system are especially evident. Our goal is to have the best and brightest of our graduates, many with regional ties of family and friends, form professional relationships with patients and doctors in our region and return after residency to practice here.

With an eye toward the future, the faculty of IU School of Medicine-Northwest and IU Northwest know we and our families will inevitably be needing the services of those we train. It is in our interest, and those of our fellow citizens of Northwest Indiana, to make sure we have the kind of well-trained doctors (as well as nurses and other health professionals) who will do their best for all of us.

Patrick Bankston is associate dean of the Indiana University School of Medicine Northwest and dean of IU Northwest's College of Health and Human Services. The opinions are the writer's.

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