COOPERSTOWN — Cooperstown has proven an unexpectedly popular place for medical students.
When Bassett Healthcare Network and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons joined forces to start a new 10-student medical school program in the fall of 2010, officials predicted great things.
But no one foresaw the program’s popularity with medical school applicants.
So far, it has drawn between 698 and 971 applications a year for just 10 slots, said Senior Associate Dean Dr. Walter Franck.
That compares to 5,100 to 5,800 applications for 155 spots in Columbia’s regular medical school and M.D./Ph.D. programs, he said.
The program, along with a similar one between the University of South Florida and Lehigh Valley Health Network, is training the next wave of physician leaders with unique curricula that teach doctors about medical care and the health care system, said Henry Sondheimer, senior director of medical education projects at the Association of American Medical Colleges.
“I think they’ve both been overwhelmed with the interest in these programs,” he said. “I think they picked something for all the right reasons because God knows we need physicians who are going to be leaders in improving the health care system, but I don’t think either of them, to be honest, anticipated the tremendous amount of interest that this would generate in this group of applicants and I think it’s wonderful.”
Katherine Schwartz of Mount Sinai on Long Island knew she wanted to go to Columbia-Bassett as soon as she heard about it as a history major at SUNY Geneseo.
Schwartz, a member of the program’s first class, was drawn by the opportunity to follow a group of patients in Cooperstown for a year.
“That was the initial draw for me. It seemed to get at why I wanted to go into medicine, I guess, the emphasis on interpersonal relationships,” she said.
And Schwartz, who’s now applying for pediatrics residencies and considering a future in neonatology, said it’s lived up to her expectations.
She’s learned, she said, “what it means to really care for patients and not just to provide health care for them, but to understand where they’re coming from … and how to get them to a place of better health, which sounds really trite and contrived, but we got to form real relationships with these patients and figure out what health and health care meant to them.”
“It’s something that you don’t get so much in a traditional medical school curriculum,” she added.
In the program, students spend 18 months in New York City and then move to Cooperstown for the rest of their education.
“Our manner of teaching is one that really brings students very close to patients and brings them to a higher understanding of what patients need and how that physician-patient relationship should take place,” said Dr. Henry Weil, Columbia’s assistant dean for education at Bassett.
Page 2 of 2 - But the curriculum, meant to serve as a model for other schools, also stresses what he called the “science of performance improvements.” Students learn how the health care system works and how to practice more effective and cost-effective medicine.
“This is precisely, from my perspective and from our perspective as the AAMC, exactly what we need,” Sondheimer said. “We need doctors who are really going to change the system of health care and I think these two programs (Columbia-Bassett and USF) have just gotten way ahead of the rest of the country.”