Every doctor has to start somewhere. Now they can make it MidMichigan Health.
The health care system welcomed its first class of medical students from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine last summer. Third- and fourth-year students at the MidMichigan are completing a core competency program and several clerkships in departments, gaining clinical experience as they train for full-time jobs as doctors.
So far, the experience has surpassed the expectations of the medical professionals and students involved.
‘Demanding in a great way’
John Evans, a Flint native who chose to come to the MSU College of Human Health Midland Regional Campus after a site visit, said the demanding schedule was expected, but the experiences he has had are beyond what he anticipated.
“Even when it’s demanding, it’s demanding in a great way,” he said. “What else would I be doing?”
On a typical day the students shadow an attending physician in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery and psychiatry. MSU sets the curriculum and MidMichigan staff offers instruction, letting the students observe and participate in medical care.
Evans said the students start work early in the morning and most days could be done by 5 p.m., but they typically want to stay to continue patient care, follow up on something interesting that happened or study for tests that come after each clerkship ends.
“You want to be here, you want to have access,” Evans said.
Evans was in awe reflecting on the 10 babies that he was the first person to ever touch in the world. He said he got emotional about the first delivery because that’s a major milestone in a doctor’s life.
“I had been gearing up that, and there it was,” he said. “It was incredible.”
After medical school, the students will earn an M.D. and will complete a residency, during which they gain specialized knowledge in the area in which they will practice.
Delivering the babies put OBGYN into Evans’ top three options for his residency program, with general surgery at the top and the emergency room as the third option.
Evans said joining a new program means coming at a time when there is a lot of enthusiasm to teach and learn. Students at other campuses have told Evans that they haven’t had the same access to real-life experiences.
“The way we were embraced by the MidMichigan Health system is incredible and something we weren’t really expecting,” he said, describing support and encouragement from staff at every level. “You don’t feel like you’re bothering anybody. You feel like they want you there and they encourage you.”
Fresh skills, top recruits
Dr. Paula Klose, community assistant dean for the new campus, said the staff loves working with the students and feel like they’re helping set up the new campus for long-term success.
Klose said when physicians teach it can help to keep their skills up, meaning better care for patients. Having a teaching component also helps recruit physicians, some of whom only want to work at a medical center where they can teach. The local instructors were selected based on having an interest in teaching and qualifications for the job.
This year, students are spending most of their time at MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland, with some time also spent at MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot. Klose said as the program expands, students also could spend time in MidMichigan’s medical centers in Gladwin and Clare.
This year there are three third-year students and five fourth-year students at the Midland campus. Klose said next year, another six third-year students will be added to the program. It could build up to nine to 12 students each year as the program grows.
The program is expected to offer more electives as time goes on and could lead to the development of a simulation center, medical research and residency opportunities at the medical centers.
Klose hopes the students will find residencies to gain in-depth knowledge in a specific medical field and then choose to return to MidMichigan Health because of their experiences as students.
Evans said after spending time in the “fantastic community,” he can see how that hope could turn into reality.
“That’s a very high likelihood,” he said. “It’s growing on me and is such a nice community.”
‘This is our community now’
Medicine was the first thing to appeal to Evans. After an uninspiring education in the Flint school system, he moved to New York and earned a master of fine arts degree. Now, he wants a career where he can see results and know he is making a difference in people’s lives.
“There’s the traditional path, the non-traditional path and then there’s my path,” Evans said with a laugh.
His easy-going demeanor works well with patients, which is a skill doctors need in addition to medical knowledge.
Evans said most patients are fine with a student being with a physician during a medical exam, but some may want privacy.
He said the patients don’t benefit from a vast new source of medical knowledge when a student is present because they are still learning everything, but students can be up-to-date on new practices or research that can help a patient.
One benefit some patients experience from having a student present is the additional time the students can spend with them when the residents or physicians are required to move to the next patient.
“It increases face time, and patients really like that,” Klose said, noting the current group of students have been great at interacting with patients.
Evans said some patients have felt their care is more thorough, which is good for the patient and the Health System. He said the MSU College of Human Medicine stresses not just the medical care, but the human side of medicine.
“They get the medical care they want and the attention that they need,” he said of patients.
Being able to spend more time with a patient also allows Evans to better remember all the things that must be asked and checked. He said the more times people does something, the faster they become.
The students also hope to become more involved in community initiatives. Evans said MSU’s core competency program includes learning about health disparities in a community. Mike Krecek, director of the Midland County Health Department, spoke to the students about Midland County’s medical needs, including access to medical care for the county’s rural residents.
“We really want to be involved in outreach services,” Evans said. “This is our community now. We don’t just want to be at the hospital and then go to sleep. We want to be a part of the community.”
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