Qualified premedical students at Grand Valley State University now can receive early assurance of admission into the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine.
The two institutions signed an agreement that reserves up to five MSU COM positions per year for GVSU students, though more than five still may be admitted if there are additional outstanding applicants, said Jean Nagelkerk, vice provost for health at GVSU.
Under the agreement, MSU COM agreed to waive supplemental application fees for GVSU students who qualify and provide them with opportunities to network with medical students, faculty and staff members.
Nagelkerk said preference will be given to students who are planning to practice medicine in Michigan or who are recipients of Pell grants, are first-generation college students or are graduates of high schools in medically underserved areas.
GVSU’s goals aligned with those of the MSU college, said Katherine Ruger, the MSU COM assistant dean of admissions.
While students still need to hold a satisfactory GPA and MCAT score, Nagelkerk said the agreement is meant to help diversify the health care talent pool in Michigan.
Ruger added: “Our goal is to produce physicians who will come back to Michigan and serve in primary care.” She said 70 percent of students who graduate from the program stay in the state.
Beyond that, Ruger said the college is dedicated to ensuring all students have the opportunity to practice medicine if they choose.
“We want to give an equal opportunity,” she said. “Sometimes, there are disadvantages that limit students from pursuing a career in medicine, and we want to do what we can to be rid of that.”
Ruger added if future doctors who are from traditionally underserved neighborhoods choose to serve their hometown neighbors, that would give those patients access to a type of care they may not have had before.
Qualified students may apply for a spot in the MSU COM program beginning in early February for admission in 2020.
Nagelkerk said admitted students will not need to spend time applying to multiple medical schools, giving them the ability to concentrate on studies during their final undergraduate year.
She added that while the GVSU students don’t apply until their junior year, they can take part in the program as early as their freshman year in college.
From the beginning of their college careers, premed students planning to apply to the COM can be involved with mentoring, advising from physicians, volunteering, research and clinical experiences, such as jobs in medical offices.
Nagelkerk said those students who go through programs like this are generally better prepared for getting into medical school and succeeding thereafter.
Grand Valley and Grand Rapids Community College entered a similar agreement with MSU's College of Human Medicine in 2012.
She said the new program should help students choose the right courses and proper path for the medical careers they’d like to pursue.
Nagelkerk said she personally reached out to MSU about this partnership.
GVSU does not have a medical school and does not plan to start one, she said, so it’s a “great opportunity” when students are able to work with organizations invested in their development.
This program also is meant to respond to a Michigan talent shortage in the health care field, Nagelkerk said.
A 2016 study by the National Center for Health Workforce Analysis projected a Michigan shortage of 960 primary care physicians by 2025.
Nagelkerk said the shortage stems from multiple factors.
Part of the shortage comes from limited space in medical schools and other training programs, which keeps some students from being admitted who otherwise could have been.
A big piece comes from shifting demographics of health care workers and of the general population.
Baby boomer doctors are retiring in greater numbers, and as the same generation of the general population ages, there will be a higher need for health care workers.
Rural communities have their own issues recruiting doctors, Nagelkerk said, because many doctors choose to live in more populated areas.
"We are so pleased our two public institutions are working together in partnership to help solve a physician shortage and fill gaps in the talent pipeline," she said.