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Meet your next doctorJanuary 11, 2019

The image to use for this article. Listing image managed through RSS tab. Midland College 2018-2019 First Year Primary Care Pathway Students Front row left to right:  Ethan Martinez, Bailee Vessels, Khait Sarapao, Brady Greenlee, Aliek Ortiz, Racey Haile, Jasmine Pryor and Kerrie Brown Back row left to right:  Isaac Martinez, Kory Howell, River Atwood, Nicolas Gonzales, Jordan Williams and Cruzita Flores

West Texas needs more doctors. Experts estimate the U.S. will be short upwards of 121,000 physicians in just 12 short years.

The 22 freshman students enrolled in Midland College’s (MC’s) Primary Care Pathway Program (PCPP) are answering the call to become doctors. These students are on the fast track. Rather than the traditional eight-year path for most pre-med students, students in this program will become a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine in just seven years.

“If you like science and you want to be a doctor, this program is perfect,” said Kory Howell, a first year student in the PCPP program at MC. “I have always wanted to be a doctor, but I did not know how I was going to pay for it. When I heard about this program, I jumped at the chance. Now, instead of going into serious debt, I have generous scholarships and lower tuition costs. Plus, I get to live at home, work a part-time job and save money.”

Student Kerrie Brown has lived in Midland her whole life. She was set to go away to a four-year school, but after calculating that her debt would pile up to $80,000, she decided to come to MC.

“The PCPP gets me where I want to be in the most efficient way,” said Brown.

Students take a rigorous course load of math and science at MC for two years. Right now, these students are in labs three days a week. These classes are carefully selected and geared toward success in the field. After completing MC, students move on to one year at the University of North Texas (UNT) in Denton. Finally, the program culminates with early acceptance into medical school at the UNT Health Science Center – Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine in Forth Worth. There, students study for four years.

“I like to have structure and that is one of the elements that drew me to this program,” said student Jasmine Pryor. “I am an anxious person, but knowing the classes I have to take makes the process less stressful. I also like working with people who are serious about what they want to be and how they want to get there.”

Through the program, Jasmine has found a genuine, supportive group of friends who are as dedicated as she is about becoming a doctor.

“When we have tests or assignments we all help each other,” said Brown. “We want to see each other succeed because we are all working towards the same goal.”

These students will be studying together for the entire seven years. The friendships and study groups they make now will carry them through the program.   

“If I do not understand a concept, someone else in the group does,” said student Nicolas Gonzales. “I can just reach out to them and they explain it to me. That help is a great advantage.”

As long as the students keep in line with academic standards and maintain a GPA of 3.5, they do not have to take the MCAT. Student Ethan Martinez has seen his sister become a doctor through the traditional route. He knows skipping the MCAT is a huge help.

“I remember my sister spending around $1,000 for all the MCAT study books,” explained Martinez. “She lost a whole year of her life studying all the time. Now she is taking out loans, and it is hard.”

Getting into medical school is not all about the academics and test scores. There is a complicated application and interview process, and this program guides students through it all.

“Since MC is a smaller institution we can provide more hands-on training and one-on-one support to ensure students are taking the proper steps,” said Joey Schenkman, MC Biology professor and PCPP liaison. “Getting into medical school is often problematic. It is our job as faculty and staff at MC to reassure students and take the guesswork out of the process.”

The program also has created two educational summer experiences for students. One is completed right here at Midland Memorial Hospital and the other at UNT Health Science Center in Forth Worth. So far all the pieces of the PCPP are working.

“We are getting reports back from the first group of students at UNT, and they are at the top of their class,” said Schenkman. “The preparation we have given them here is carrying over. These results give us confidence in what we are doing. We cannot wait to see this new group exceed the first group. We have high expectations; we hold students to it, and they meet it. This is a great group. I am so happy to work with them. I take pride in what I do because of who they are.”

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