Well Connected: Robert Morris University Well Connected | Robert Morris University

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Making connections. In pursuing your career of choice, isn't that really what it's all about? Robert Morris University thinks so. For years now, RMU has been helping students make connections and putting them on the fast track to successful professional careers through hands-on learning. RMU is always striving to provide real-world experiences and engaged learning through internships, international travel opportunities, and corporate and academic partnerships.

The importance of connections is nowhere more evident than in the medical field, where just getting into a medical school can be a challenge. That's where RMU's new pre-medicine linkage agreements come in. Successful completion of these cooperative programs guarantees acceptance into some of the best medical schools in the nation. These valuable agreements provide students with an excellent undergraduate education and valuable hands-on training, putting them on the fast track for success and giving them an edge in this highly competitive field.

A 2005 RMU study found that of the 8,400 physicians in Western Pennsylvania, only 36 percent attended medical school in state. Even more troubling, the study found that students who leave Pennsylvania for their medical education often do not return. This is a big problem for Western Pennsylvania in particular, where there's an aging population and a shortage of qualified physicians to care for them.

It was this shortage that prompted RMU to start a pre-medicine program in 2005. Housed in the School of Engineering, Mathematics and Science (SEMS) and led by Associate Dean and Professor of Science Maria V. Kalevitch, Ph.D., the program provides students with the tools necessary to get accepted into medical school. Now, through three new linkage agreements, RMU's pre-medicine students will have a clear path to admission into some of the nation's top medical schools.

The Scholars-Articulation Program is a unique collaboration between RMU, Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) and the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Officially kicked-off in Feb. 2008, the goal of the program is to attract highly qualified, committed pre-medical, medical and graduate medical trainees to serve the tri-state area through an early assurance admissions program. It's a valuable program for a region that is in desperate need of qualified medical professionals.

"This partnership represents a commitment on the part of our three institutions to train doctors to serve in Pennsylvania, which is facing a critical shortage of physicians," said RMU President Gregory G. Dell'Omo, Ph.D. "This is also an opportunity to attract exemplary students who otherwise might not have chosen to enroll at Robert Morris University or to attend college in Western Pennsylvania."

The Scholars-Articulation Program focuses on recruiting qualified high school seniors to enroll in RMU's pre-medicine program in preparation for attending medical school at Drexel. Preference will be given to students from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and to those who want to pursue careers in family medicine, general internal medicine or general pediatrics. Students enrolling in RMU in the fall of 2008 will be eligible to participate in the new program. This exclusive program will accept a maximum of five students each year.

During their undergraduate career, students in the Scholars-Articulation Program will complete a pre-professional internship at AGH, which is a regional campus of Drexel University College of Medicine. "We are delighted to partner with RMU and the Drexel University College of Medicine in an endeavor that we believe is critically important to the long-term health and well-being of our region," said Connie Cibrone, AGH president and chief executive officer. "The education and training of tomorrow's health care professionals is one of the cornerstones of our mission as an academic medical center, and we look forward to helping make this wonderful opportunity available to local high school students."

After receiving their undergraduate degree from RMU, students will be admitted to Drexel University College of Medicine through a guaranteed acceptance, as long as they achieve the prerequisite GPA and MCAT score. These students will not be required to go through the usual medical school application process.

"We are very pleased to build upon our strong academic relationship with AGH through this new affiliation with Robert Morris University," said Richard V. Homan, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs and dean of Drexel University College of Medicine. "This unique partnership will enable more students to attend medical school, and ultimately enter local residency training programs and practice in Western Pennsylvania in order to serve their communities."

During their third and fourth years at Drexel, students will return to AGH for at least one required third-year clerkship and one fourth-year rotation. In addition, they will be able to complete even more clinical rotations at AGH, which agrees to organize and conduct a clinical educational research experience for the students after they complete their third year at Drexel.

RMU also recently partnered with the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) on a similar linkage agreement. LECOM is the fastest growing medical college in the country and offers some of the most innovative learning programs available today. Best of all, its unique selection of learning pathways provides the necessary educational foundation for students to pursue a career in their desired medical field.

The program, which reserves 10 places for RMU students each year, is a 4+4 linkage agreement, meaning students first complete four years of undergraduate study and receive their bachelor's degree from RMU before attending LECOM in Erie, Pa., for four years of medical school. Once they receive their bachelor's degree, students enter LECOM's Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree program. This unique program allows students to choose from three student-centered, learning pathways: traditional lecture-discussion courses; small-group, problem-based learning; and independent study based on self-directed learning modules.

For students interested in chiropractic careers, RMU also signed a 3+4 linkage agreement with Palmer College of Chiropractic (PCC) in Davenport, Iowa. This valuable collaboration gives students the opportunity to earn an RMU undergraduate degree and a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree in just seven years. In this 3+4 linkage agreement, students complete three years of undergraduate study at RMU followed by four years of study at PCC. Students are awarded a bachelor's degree from RMU after completing their first year of medical training at PCC.

Palmer College of Chiropractic is one of the most prestigious chiropractic colleges in the nation, and is widely accepted as the birthplace of the discipline. It was founded in 1897 by D.D. Palmer - the "father of chiropractic." Today, Palmer alumni make up one-third of the approximately 75,000 chiropractors practicing worldwide. Currently, RMU has two students who have been accepted into PCC - Jace Buzek and sophomore Sarah Chester, who was just accepted into the program in February.

For Chester, who's always wanted to be a chiropractor, getting accepted into PCC is a dream come true. "I am honored to be a pioneer of this collaborative endeavor," she said. "This is really a wonderful opportunity."

Each of these valuable collaborations will give RMU students an edge as they begin their medical careers. Sophomore Michael Bowman, who plans to work in cardiology, sees the Scholars-Articulation Program as a great benefit to students looking to get into medicine. "The program is great because it enables Robert Morris University to be affiliated with well-known, prestigious health care systems," he said. "It gives students the upper hand when it comes time to apply to medical school, and it puts a spotlight on the University's pre-med program."

Robert Morris University's linkage agreements are certainly paving the way for tomorrow's medical professionals. The good news is that even more of these valuable agreements are expected to come about as the University's pre-medicine program continues to grow. It's just one more way that RMU is helping its students make connections that will clear the path to a successful career.