Cooper Medical School of Rowan Univerisity
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Rx for Success

Medical school gets the go-ahead to begin recruiting students.

Rx for Success, Medical School Gets Go-Ahead to Begin Recruiting StudentsAs they seek the best education available to learn the science—and art—of practicing medicine, today’s aspiring doctors have a brand new option:  Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU).

On June 9, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the nationally recognized accrediting authority for medical education programs leading to the M.D. degree, granted preliminary accreditation to CMSRU.

The accreditation means that Cooper Medical School can now begin recruiting students for its inaugural class of 50 students for the fall 2012 semester. The preliminary accreditation is the third of a five-step LCME accreditation process. The process is complete when the first class graduates in 2016.

The preliminary accreditation came almost exactly two years to the week after officials at Rowan University and Cooper University Health System announced they were partnering to develop the medical school.

In March, the LCME Survey Team completed a four-day site visit, during which the team reported no deficiencies towards compliance with LCME standards. Such a finding is rare for LCME applicants, according to Founding Dean Paul Katz, M.D.

“We’re very pleased to receive the endorsement of the LCME and we’re looking forward to meeting our prospective students,” Katz said. “It’s time to bring this medical school to life.

“We have developed an innovative curriculum designed to challenge our students not only to be exemplary physicians, but also to lead us into the next generation of healthcare.”

The medical school’s leadership team will recruit a diverse group of CMSRU students, according to Katz. Cooper Medical School will be the first medical school in New Jersey in more than 30 years and the first four-year allopathic medical school in South Jersey.

A new, $139 million, 200,000-square-foot medical school building will be the students’ educational home, but much of their knowledge and experience will be gained as they learn from--and serve—residents of the City of Camden. The CMSRU curriculum will allow students to have first-year contact with patients and to become intimately involved with the community, according to Katz.

Addressing health care issues
In recruiting students, CMSRU will address a number of key issues in health care in New Jersey. Among them: the state’s physician shortage; the exodus of New Jersey students  to study elsewhere; the declining  number of medical school graduates who choose careers in primary care; and the lack of applicants from under-represented populations.

The national shortage of physicians profoundly affects New Jersey, which ranks 33rd nationally in medical school graduates. Statistics from the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) show that less than half (48.7 percent) of New Jersey residents who applied to medical school last year were admitted. Of them, just 19.6 percent went to a medical school in New Jersey.

CMSRU will provide more physicians for New Jersey and will offer more opportunities for state residents to receive a medical school education, Katz noted.

Additionally, a report by the Council on Graduate Medical Education, published last year, stated that only 17 percent of graduating medical school students in 2008 (the most recent statistics available) chose primary care as their first career choice. 

CMSRU will address this issue by offering a patient-centered curriculum, educating our students on the importance of system-based care, and providing ample opportunities for students to learn in community-based settings.

“Clearly, primary care is on the critical list,” Katz said. “I truly believe that the  major reason that  medical students  choose a specialty is based on their experiences in medical school and, most importantly, the role models they meet.”

“The primary care experiences that we are planning for our students and the individuals who will be teaching them--combined with the remarkable patients they will see--will increase the likelihood that they will choose primary care as a career.”

Valuing diversity
With regard to diversity, AAMC statistics show that of the 42,742 applicants to medical schools nationally last year, only 3,080 of those accepted were from under-represented populations. CMSRU is seeking diversity in its student body in terms of ethnicity, race, gender, socioeconomic status, education, sexual orientation and age.

“Diversity—in both our students and faculty—is a core value at CMSRU,” Katz said. “We are seeking students who will add value to CMSRU—and value to the education of each other.”

What qualities will CMSRU students possess? According to Katz, CMSRU is seeking students who have a strong commitment to the community and to addressing healthcare disparities, especially in inner city, underserved and rural populations. Those students should understand and embrace cultural diversity, be active learners, exhibit ethical behavior and empathy, value and appreciate teamwork, and exhibit strong interpersonal and leadership skills.

At home in Camden
Most importantly, CMSRU students need to understand and embrace the community they’ll serve, said Katz. The motto --“Camden is our classroom. Camden is our home”--isn’t lip service, Katz said.

“It’s a part of who we are as a medical school. We live in a community where the fundamental needs of many – housing, food, health care, education – are unmet,” he said. “We want our students to be committed to service to the city and region – not just while they are students here, but throughout their careers.

“We have an enormous responsibility and obligation to give back to the community that has given birth to our school. We will do that.”