Community is their classroom

September 11, 2005|By CANDICE BOSELY


When a medical student played by actor Matthew Modine is asked in the movie "Gross Anatomy" why he wants to become a doctor, he winks after answering, "I want to make lots of money."

Two medical students working one-on-one with local doctors as part of West Virginia University's Health Sciences Center Eastern Division program have loftier goals.

Helping people and working in a challenging field that always is interesting and always evolving are the motivations behind medical students Justin Glassford, 25, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., and John Paul Jansen, 27, of Martinsburg.


The two opted to undertake their third, and possibly fourth, year of medical school in the Eastern Panhandle, rather than in a larger program such as that at WVU's main campus in Morgantown, W.Va.

There currently are 27 students enrolled in the Eastern Division program, which was launched four years ago.

Rotations expose the students to a variety of medical fields.

Students' schedules vary, with Glassford working with an OB/GYN on Mondays, with a family physician in a clinical setting on Tuesdays, with in-patient family medicine services on Wednesdays at Jefferson Memorial Hospital in Ranson, W.Va., and with a pediatrician on Thursdays.

Fridays are reserved for lectures.

After two years of book work, lectures and tests, finally being able to work with patients is gratifying, Jansen said.

"It's kind of a relief to be able to start doing what you want to do with your life," he said.

For their fourth year, the students can remain in the Panhandle or head to Morgantown to take electives in a specialized field. They also begin applying for residencies in their fourth year, which is a similar process to applying for jobs. Residencies typically last for several years.

Jansen said he eventually wants to work in family medicine, while Glassford said he is leaning toward working in an internal medicine field.

Both said they want to remain in the area - one of the goals of the Eastern Division's program.

Cultivating personal relationships

The Eastern Division program covers nine counties in the Eastern Panhandle - Berkeley, Jefferson, Morgan, Hampshire, Hardy, Mineral, Grant, Pendleton and Tucker.

"The community is their classroom. That's the campus," said Tracie Ford, spokeswoman for the Eastern Division.

The school's dean, Dr. C.H. Mitch Jacques, knows each student, and cultivating such relationships is important, Ford said.

"That's what we focus on here," she said.

Throughout the country, there are around 125 health science centers, where medical schools, nursing schools, dentistry schools and other similar programs are located. West Virginia University is one such center, Jacques said.

Within the last 10 to 20 years, community sites to be used for health education have become more popular. WVU has two such branches - one in Charleston, W.Va., and the Eastern Division, which is administratively based in Martinsburg on the grounds of City Hospital.

It's a plan, and a hope, that community education centers will prompt more doctors to remain in the area.

Economic development also is a factor, with more doctors creating more related jobs, Jacques said.

Jacques, who grew up in Smithsburg and graduated from North Hagerstown High School, obtained a doctorate in engineering and did his medical training at Michigan State before doing a residency at Penn State.

Jacques has been a family physician for 24 years and been in the teaching field for 25 years.

Jacques said he was involved in a similar branch program in Michigan and believes it offers a better experience.

Students work side by side with doctors and interact with patients. Less students vying for attention equates to a better education, Jacques said.

"The doctors have opened their arms to the students and are treating them like junior colleagues," Jacques said.

Building a program

The Eastern Division has students and teachers, but lacks a building to call its own.

The administrative offices currently are housed on the second floor of the Dorothy McCormack Center on City Hospital's grounds.

Look out the windows, though, and construction on the Eastern Division's new $6 million building can be seen. Construction is expected to be finished in early 2006.

The 30,000-square-foot building will house offices, classrooms, a 200-seat auditorium, state-of-the-art technology and a connection with the library resources at WVU's Morgantown campus, Jacques said.

The Herald-Mail Articles