|For Immediate Release|
January 24, 2000
Five medical students from the area are completing their sophomore yearat Northwest Centeron the Indiana University Northwest campusthis semester and attribute the RegionalCenter Alternative Pathway to an excellent start in their medicaleducation while acknowledging that the program helps achieve desired physiciancharacteristics through a balance of knowledge, skills and attitude.
Jenny Huss of Griffith, Lauren Harting of Hebron, Rown Emig of CrownPoint, and Nick Fraley and Jeff White of Merrillville have spent the lasttwo years together in the Alternative Pathway medical program, andwill soon part ways to continue their third year of medical education.
The Alternative Pathway program at Northwest Center is notedas the only Center in the Indiana statewide medical education system tooffer this innovative method of education. Based on problem-solving andactive learning, the program offers a blend of new and traditional medicalcurriculum to freshman and sophomore medical students helping them to gainexposure to cases that reflect real-life situations and issues facing physicians.
All five students are graduates of IU Northwest and say that their decisionto go to medical school on a regional campus, instead of a residentialone, includes the availability of the Alternative Pathway program,as well as the cost and convenience of being close to home. Because ofthe “smaller school” environment, they have grown very close while reachingfor their goals.
“We see each other a lot,” says White, who wants to go into orthopedicsurgery. He adds that the support they give to one another is a “very goodthing” while they manage the strenuous workload of physician preparation.“I have learned what dedication to something really means.”
Dedication is one of the goals of Alternative Pathway as it motivatesindividuals to upgrade their abilities by placing the responsibility oflearning on the student through problem-based tutorial sessions, lectures,special topic presentations, and doctor/patient relationship practices.
Problem-based tutorial sessions consist of small interactive groupsof students who analyze and discuss a weekly medical case problem witha faculty tutor. The students then set the necessary agenda of learningissues for self-directed study. Basic science labs and additional groupdiscussion are designed to support the tutorials.
“I like working with the paper cases (case studies),” says Harting whosefirst choice is to be an ER physician. “As a small group we all get toknow each other real well – and if we’re struggling, professors are alwaysready and willing to help. Harding also adds that in the last two years,she has learned the importance of perseverance, especially since her lifealso includes being a wife and mother of two sons.
Emig agrees that “sticking to it” is one of the important factors hehas learned while in medical school. Also married, Emig wants to go intoradiology or cardiology, and says the amount of time he spends studyingcan make it difficult for his personal life.
“There is a lot of material to study, and although I desire to be withmy family and my wife more, I can’t do it all the time,” Emig says, addingthat when finished with medical school, he wants to practice locally. “I’mfrom here and plan to practice here.”
A favorite element of the program for Emig and many others is the doctor/patientrelationship component, which is designed to foster desired primarycare physician's characteristics. Through this, students develop effectivecommunication skills, learn to show empathy toward patients, as well aslearn to understand and appreciate the cultural and socio-economic differencesof the patients and families they serve.
In the patient/family relationship component, students are exposed toa series of clinical experiences that illustrate the impact of illnesson patient's lives and what they expect from their physicians. Throughthe History and Physical Leaning Center (H& P Center) at the Northwest Center, students are introduced to“real life” patient experiences.
The H & P Center consists of four examination rooms and uses standardizedpatients to create simulations of the history and physical findingsof real patients. Standardized patients are individuals who are trainedto present a patient's history and physical examination findings consistently.The “patients” are also trained to evaluate the clinical and interpersonalskills of individual medical students.
“Working with standardized patients is beneficial and it’s a realisticway to learn how to talk to patients. I remember better when I see it,experience it – not just read about it,” says Emig adding that the “patients”are trained so well they have even fooled him. ”One man pretended to behomeless and I gave him a few bucks,” Emig adds smiling.
In wrapping up their freshmen and sophomore year, the group of fivesays they have learned so much from their experiences as they completeStep 6 of the sixcurriculum units. Fraley, who is continuing his next two years of medicaleducation in Indianapolis, says he’s dealt with the challenges of medicalschool by being stubborn. Wanting to be a surgeon, he admits that he has“worked overtime studying, seven days a week. If my parents want to geta hold of me, they call me at school,” he says while laughing.
Huss also agrees that the workload of medical school is a challenge,especially in the beginning.
“When I went from college to medical school, I had no idea how difficultit would be,” says Huss, who is deciding whether she should go into ERor pediatrics. “In my freshmen year, it was hard not to see the kind ofgrades I was used to – but I learned time management, worked more on myown as a person – and now I’m at the top of the class.”
Despite the challenges, the five students have learned about perseveranceand dedication while accomplishing their goals – and are well on theirway to becoming physicians. All of them credit the medical education faculty’sdedication, as well as the faculty at IU Northwest for preparing them wellfor medical school. They also feel that the Alternative Pathwaycurriculum of problem-based learning has not only given them the toolsand experience they need to go on to complete medical school, but the innovativeprogram has prepared them for life-long learning.
“Life long learning is a process,” says White. “As a physician, youare never through with learning, whether there are new steps to take, orstaying current – or even learning for the just-in-case situations.”
For more information on Northwest Center, contact Dr.William Baldwin, assitant dean and director at 219-980-6556. For moreinformation on bachelor degree programs that prepare students for medicalschool, contact Dr. AtillaTuncay, professor of chemistry at 219-980-6745.
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