Earlier in the pandemic, Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an executive order allowing fourth-year students to graduate early and join the front lines. More than a third of the Class of 2020—124 in all—did so.
Aside from easing the strain felt by frontline health workers, the students who were deployed also gained invaluable experience. Autonomy they were given prepared them for residency programs and instilled them with confidence. It also gave them a chance to treat vulnerable patient populations.
“They felt it was a call of duty,” said Paul Wallach, MD, executive associate dean for educational affairs and institutional improvement. “There was an ask, and our students stepped up.”
First- and second-year students— eager to help in a time when clinical interactions were limited—followed their lead. “I’m not surprised so many of our students volunteered,” said Dean Jay L. Hess, MD, PhD, MHSA. “This is something that students can do that is really important work, and ultimately save people’s lives.”
TEACHING MEDICAL STUDENTS during a pandemic posed another challenge, but the School of Medicine found its footing. And program offerings expanded greatly in 2020, giving medical students throughout the state more options for concentrated study in an area of medicine they are passionate about.
Today, the School of Medicine offers 17 scholarly concentrations. Four are available to students throughout the state. The others are offered at one of the school’s nine regional campuses, drawing upon each campus’s faculty expertise and unique characteristics.
Scholarly concentrations offer medical students unique mentorship opportunities, the chance to develop specialized skills and complete scholarly projects, which are valuable for residency applications and professional development.
In the fall, 224 IU medical students enrolled in scholarly concentrations throughout the state. Another 129 enrolled in scholarly concentration programs in Spring 2021.
PART OF TRAINING skilled healers requires us to embrace what makes our students outstanding to begin with–and then making the School of Medicine a place they feel comfortable being their true selves.
This year not only brought a pandemic but a racial reckoning to the United States. At IU, we wanted to take tangible and decisive steps to ensure we remain a welcoming and inclusive place. One of those was the creation of a new position: Special Advisor to the Dean and Chief Diversity Officer.
Named to the post was Patricia Treadwell, MD, who has taught at IU School of Medicine for more than 30 years and is now a professor emeritus of pediatrics and dermatology. She now advises the dean on diversity, equity, and inclusion across all areas of the school’s mission. Some of this work was already under way, but underrepresented students—19 percent of our enrollment—now have a go-to contact.
Treadwell wants to make sure their experience is a good one. “We know that diverse students, diverse residents enhance the academic atmosphere, and they need to feel appreciated, and need to feel supported, she said.
Appointing Treadwell is just one move. The school is holding town hall meetings to solicit input on improving diversity, equity and inclusion. It’s implementing regular training on unconscious bias for faculty and learners. It’s also enhancing the curriculum to address eliminating health disparities.
Even with all the challenges of the past year, IU School of Medicine took steps to improve medical education and enhance the experience for each of its students.