IU-Northwest campus medical school growing
By Carole Carlson email@example.com/302-0949 September 15, 2013 10:46PM
Updated: October 17, 2013 6:02AM
GARY — Aging baby boomers and their soon-to-retire doctors have combined to loosen the enrollment cap at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
In 2010, state officials realized more physicians are needed in the pipeline to meet the medical care demands of the baby boom generation. Now, those students making their way through the difficult medical school regimen as IU Northwest establishes a strong urban healthcare curriculum.
A report provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges included 2011 data showing Indiana ranked 38th in the country, with 209 to 233 active physicians for every 100,000 people.
“It took a while to happen, but the state came up with a plan,” said Patrick Bankston, associate dean and director of the IU School of Medicine-Northwest in Gary. Bankston, who’s also dean of the College of Health and Human Services, said the General Assembly set aside $3 million in additional funding to spread across the state’s eight medical school campuses.
IU’s medical school is the second-largest in the United States, with 364 students, behind only the University of Illinois.
Tanav Popli, of Valparaiso, is a member of the first-year medical school class of 26 students that began studies in August. Gary and Northwest Indiana is his home turf.
“I grew up here and this program has a pretty interesting curriculum. There’s a lot more problem-solving and more clinical training,” he said.
Asad Torabi, of Munster, attended IUN as an undergraduate.
“I’m home-grown and very comfortable here. A lot of us interviewed here,” he said.
The Northwest campus increased its enrollment from 18 to 26 first-year students in 2010. By 2015, Northwest will have 32 first-year medical students.
In 2010, it also added an optional third- and fourth-year curriculum on the Northwest campus. In the past, medical students attended their first two years at Northwest, then moved to the main campus, in Indianapolis, for the remainder of their schooling.
Bankston said the move wasn’t popular at first, with just three of 26 students opting to remain in 2011. Last year, eight chose to stay and this year, a dozen students are continuing third and fourth-year studies at Northwest.
“Students are usually concerned about whether or not the experience here on a regional campus will be equivalent to the main campus and whether it will be competitive for landing a residency,” said Bankston.
Even though the IU School of Medicine has loosened its enrollment cap, the number of residencies available still hasn’t changed, Bankston said. Medicare funds residencies and those slots haven’t increased, making them more competitive.
He said the Northwest campus is succeeding in keeping students. “What’s happened is, word has gotten out that the training is excellent,” he said. “What’s different is, they get to work with physicians on a regular basis. We have 250 community physicians who volunteer their time without compensation. Hospitals just love the idea the students are there.”
There are 10 hospitals scattered across Northwest Indiana and medical students train in all of them, Bankston said.
The goal is for IU Northwest medical school graduates to serve their three-year residencies in Chicago, then come here to practice. No hospitals in Northwest Indiana offer residencies. A state study committee is evaluating plan to establish a trauma/teaching hospital in Gary, near IUN.
“It’s an expensive process,” said Bankston. “You have to have full-time faculty.”