A unique beast
Finding the right partner will help beleaguered OSU Medical Center maintain its role as the nation’s only osteopathic teaching hospital.
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Strategy: Early recruitment
OSU is seeking potential medical students in unusual places.
Oklahoma may partially alleviate its physician shortage by assertively identifying and recruiting potential candidates at home, and doing so as early as possible.
“Students who come here and train here are likely to stay here, which is part of our goal,” says Dr. Kayse Shrum, Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences provost and dean of the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. They also are more likely to set up a practice within a 100-mile radius of where they do their residency.
In that regard, the school is considering oft-overlooked ways to find and retain future physicians, whether it involves developing residency programs in key smaller communities, creating relationships with regional universities, speaking to a Future Farmers of America meeting, or offering a one-day medical summer camp.
Although Tulsa’s OSU Medical Center provides residency slots for a portion of OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine students, those choosing to specialize as primary care doctors in rural medicine may also do their residency work in Tahlequah, Durant, McAlester and Lawton, where OSU has relationships with local hospitals, Shrum says.
To support this effort, she and others have worked to create early admissions programs at regional universities such as Northeastern State University. Students apply in their sophomore year, then spend their junior year shadowing and working with a physician. If they meet all the academic criteria, they come to Tulsa their senior year to start medical school, all of it applying to their bachelor’s and cutting down a year of training, she says.
Shrum says OSU is strategically identifying rural students who may want to pursue a career in medicine.
This summer, the school conducted Operation Orange, a one-day summer camp at local college campuses in several smaller cities. There, students learned about Oklahoma’s rural physician shortage and what is involved in attending medical school.
“We show them the pathway and make it easy for them,” says Shrum, who notes many students never consider becoming doctors because they are not exposed to the idea. She knows firsthand. Attending college on a softball scholarship, she was encouraged to think about medicine by a college science professor who saw her abilities.
But Shrum wants to capture the imaginations of students even earlier. OSU plans to start a Student Doctor of the Day program in which high school students shadow a medical student in Tulsa, or a physician in their home community.
Additionally, the past two years, she has taught a seminar on how to become a rural physician to students at the state Future Farmers of America convention. “To get someone interested (in rural medicine), they have to have a love of agriculture and an interest in the rural lifestyle,” says Shrum, who also encourages FFA teachers to identify students who may be potential candidates. So far, it has worked well and has resulted in a number of families coming to visit the medical school.
“We have plenty of applicants” to the medical school, she says, “but we have to be strategic about getting the right students.”