First class of students arrives at Cooper Medical School in CamdenAugust 14, 2012
NEWSWORKS, by Carolyn Beeler -- Students arrived at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University in downtown Camden Monday for the first day of orientation at the brand-new medical school.
There were a lot of dark suits and awkward, first-day conversations in the atrium of the school's new building as students met each other for the first time.
A gaggle of watching faculty members adjusted and re-adjusted the students on risers for a class photo, calling out to individuals by name to move a little to the left or right.
Eventually, 400 students will be enrolled at Cooper. For now, though, with the first class numbering just 50 students, there are a whopping nine faculty members for each student.
Cleveland native and Princeton grad Rebecca Lee said those professors are the reason she enrolled at Cooper.
“The faculty and administrators really shine with their enthusiasm,” Lee said, “so that really was what drew me here in the first place.”
Still, Lee acknowledged that with all the individual attention will come some extra pressure.
“I think the fact that it's a new school could be a little daunting, there's a real calling to step up to the plate and set an example for the classes to come,” Lee said.
Nearly three-quarters of the class is from New Jersey. Dean Dr. Paul Katz said he hopes that means more students will stay to practice after they get their degrees.
"Part of how we want to be recognized as a school is a school that helps a distressed city like Camden," Katz said.
More medical schools do not necessarily mean more primary care physicians will be available in an area, or that there will be more doctors period. The number of federally funded residency slots largely controls that, and has remained flat for more than a decade, even as new medical schools open.
However, Katz hopes mandatory clinic work and out-of-the hospital volunteer requirements will encourage his students to work in under-served areas.
"Getting them excited about this city, and getting them to understand the opportunities and having them realize that they can make a difference, will help augment their chances of coming back," Katz said.
Cooper is the sixth medical school in or near downtown Philadelphia. Only New York has more.
The school is housed in a new six-story, $139 million building in downtown Camden.
None of the inaugural class is from Camden, though the school hopes that will change. It is offering scholarships for up to five students from the city each year.
Classes for the new students start next week.