MADISON (WKOW) -- More first year medical students started classes at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) than ever before.
The class of 168 students includes 18 students in a specialized program that focuses on under served populations in rural Wisconsin.
"The University of Wisconsin is committed to helping Wisconsin address the serious projected shortage of doctors, which is expected to affect in particular rural areas," says SMPH Dean Dr. Robert N. Golden. "Our state has a higher proportion of citizens living in rural areas compared to the national average. It also has a lower percentage of doctors practicing in rural areas. We can help change those statistics by developing programs to attract and retain physicians in rural Wisconsin."
For many years, the school's class size hovered around 150. This year, the school increased the number of students admitted to the MD program.
In 2007, the SMPH created the Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine (WARM), which is a special program that selects and trains students committed to future practices in rural communities across Wisconsin. During its first year, WARM enrolled five students, withe a goal of enrolling a total of 25 first-year students by 2011.
"But interest in the program has been greater than we expected, so we have accelerated the growth in our WARM student admissions the past two years," Assistant Dean of Admissions Lucy Wall says.
All of the 18 new WARM students enrolled this year have expressed a commitment to rural practice. The past academic performance of all members of the class remains as high as ever, with a mean cumulative grade point average of 3.72
Included in the class are nine students with master's degrees and three that hold Ph.D degrees. Just over half of the class earned degrees from Wisconsin colleges and universities. Other students who received degrees outside of Wisconsin have degrees from places including Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Chicago. However, strong academics aren't the only thing admissions committee members look for in applicants.
"We are equally interested in each individual's personal qualities and characteristics," says Wall. "We want to know what experiences they have had in life, what activities they have engaged in, the extent to which they may have gone out of their comfort zone to do other things in life."
Members of the incoming Class of 2013 include a former collegiate women's hockey player, a hospice volunteer, an intern for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, a martial-arts instructor, a Special Olympics volunteer, a legislative intern for the Wisconsin Senate, a rancher, and a burn-unit volunteer. One student has undergone open-heart surgery twice and two are hearing-impaired. The entire class is healthy and thriving. The school believes that what people have experienced in the past helps shape them for today and tomorrow.
"These things are important because they can translate into how you relate to classmates, faculty, other members of the healthcare team and definitely patients," says Wall. "We're interested in a person's character."
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