Joshua Dorsey turns 18 on Friday but already might have guaranteed himself a spot at the Medical College of Georgia.
The incoming Georgia Regents University freshman will be one of four in an inaugural program designed to guide them from their undergraduate studies straight into medical school, as long as they meet academic benchmarks and test score requirements.
Such programs – there are 44 at the 141 U.S. medical schools – make things easier for students and allow educators to shape the kind of education they want medical students to have, said Dr. John E. Prescott, the chief academic officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges.
“Everybody can truly come out winners on this,” he said.
Consolidating the former Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences universities this year allowed their different faculties to meet and collaborate on creating the pipeline B.S./M.D. program, said Dr. Paul M. Wallach, the vice dean for academic affairs at MCG.
“I saw this as one of our opportunities in a consolidated campus, an opportunity for individuals working at the medical school and at the Summerville campus to develop a program together and work together and foster its growth and development over time,” he said.
“This is one of the most positive things to emerge from the consolidation, and to be doing it so quickly, it’s great to see it,” said Dr. Rich Griner, the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences.
The program allows the medical school faculty and undergraduate faculty to work on a “continuum of medical education” that can coordinate curriculum so students at every level are learning what they need to and are acquiring the competencies they will need in medical school, Prescott said.
“It allows the medical school to be assured that” students coming into its classes “are very well-prepared,” he said. Having that close linkage also could allow a medical school to push for more humanities and social science courses, as some are calling for in medical education, at the undergraduate level.
“This does give you some freedom,” Prescott said.
The program was approved and began recruiting in March, so it was late in the decision-making for many who had already picked a university, Griner said. Dorsey was set on attending the University of Georgia in Athens until he got wind of the program, when he learned about GRU.
Late this year, the university will be able to more heavily recruit and publicize the program across Georgia and perhaps draw more highly prized students, Wallach said.
“Folks who are interested in going into medicine are typically very motivated, very high-end, high-caliber students,” Wallach said.
“Programs like this at other institutions have really been shown to be a recruiting magnet,” Griner said. “High-ability students are certainly attracted to a program like this that is tailored just for them, that smooths the pathway to medical school, which is a bumpy and competitive path for a lot of people.”
That was certainly the attraction for Dorsey.
“I have family friends that are in med school or applying to med school,” he said. “I know the process was really stressful. It is extremely competitive.”
For its 230 slots in the first-year class, there were more than 2,800 applications last year.
The program could not only help recruit students interested in the new program but also have a “huge coattail effect” with other potential students, Griner said.
“They pay more attention to your university,” he said. “They start to realize that we’re a place that is offering top-notch programs for students like them, for high-ability students.”
Dorsey has wanted to be a doctor since he was 9 years old, when his youngest brother was found to have a tumor in his ear that disappeared, reappeared again, then disappeared once more.
“It really fascinated me as a kid that something so life-changing could just kind of disappear, and so I started researching cancer on my own time,” he said.
The new GRU program now gives him the straightest path to his goal.
“It really seems like the perfect program for what I needed and what I wanted to do,” Dorsey said.