The first group of students enrolled in a special program at New Mexico State University are taking their initial steps on the path to becoming a doctor of osteopathic medicine. Those steps are intended to lead to more doctors to serve people in underserved areas, especially the Southwest U.S.
“NMSU has major research, educational and outreach programs in the health sciences,” said NMSU Provost Dan Howard. “This program is a welcome addition to our efforts to improve the health and wellness of the people of New Mexico.”
The seven NMSU freshmen toured the new Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine on Sept. 7 and are settling into their regular NMSU classes.
They are the first participants in the Osteopathic Medicine Pathway Program, which gives qualifying students who complete various requirements an assured pathway into the Burrell College when they graduate with a bachelor’s degree from NMSU.
“A goal of the program is to train osteopathic physicians who will practice here,” said OMPP Program Director Jeremy Taulbee. “The hope of the program is by accepting students from the New Mexico, West Texas, Arizona region, they might practice medicine here.”
Taulbee said the program was created in October 2015 as an agreement between NMSU and The Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine at New Mexico State University.
“The program was created to provide students interested in a career as an osteopathic physician with a pathway that would allow them to go from a baccalaureate program at NMSU, to a guaranteed seat in the doctor of osteopathic medicine program at BCOM,” Taulbee said. It also is intended to provide the opportunity for students interested in earning a degree from the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine to experience a supportive and enriched undergraduate learning environment, Taulbee said.
“Other goals are to enhance the accessibility of medical degrees for students graduating from NMSU and to increase the number of health care providers in New Mexico who are committed to serving the healthcare needs of our diverse population,” he said.
“This partnership with NMSU is very exciting as it allows BCOM to fulfill its mission of increasing the physician workforce in the region,” said Tania B. Arana, associate dean for Admissions and Student Affairs and associate professor of Biomedical Sciences at BCOM. “The pipeline program affords BCOM an opportunity to take an active role in developing these promising undergraduate students by helping them to build their curriculum and gain the necessary experience to prepare them to become successful medical students. We are very fortunate to have this unique opportunity to partner with such a well-recognized and established university.”
Taulbee said while OMPP students are required to earn a baccalaureate degree, they will not be required to major in any particular field. Students are able to choose any course of study that fits their interests. A few of the majors represented in the Fall 2016 cohort include biology, biochemistry, chemical engineering and kinesiology.
Joseph Berning, program director for Kinesiology and director of the Exercise Physiology Laboratory in the College of Education at NMSU, will focus on the academic preparation of the students while at NMSU. A particular focus will be mentoring the students to become future leaders.
“They will need to be leaders in medicine,” Berning said. As doctors, they will not only need to be experts in medical disciplines but also will need to lead the delivery of health care and understand the business aspects of medicine.
“We will help them understand the components of working in medicine,” he said.
NMSU’s Financial Aid and Scholarships Office will assist each OMPP student in finding scholarships and other forms of financial aid to cover the cost of their NMSU education. No scholarship is offered strictly to the OMPP students. Also, successful completion of the program does not provide any financial aid for the cost of attending BCOM. Once students are enrolled as medical students at BCOM, they will work with BCOM’s Financial Aid personnel to find options for financing their medical education.
Taulbee pointed out that OMPP offers a unique opportunity to selected NMSU students who are committed to serving their community’s health care needs.
“During the program and over the course of their undergraduate studies, the OMPP will provide opportunities for frequent and substantial interactions with the southern New Mexico healthcare community,” Taulbee said. “OMPP students will learn from professionals working and teaching in the healthcare field through seminars, research opportunities and internship positions. OMPP students will have the opportunity to interact with faculty, staff and students from BCOM.”
To qualify for the program, students must meet certain academic standards.
“The OMPP is open only to incoming freshmen students, who are attending the first fall semester at NMSU following their graduation from high school,” Taulbee said. “All candidates must meet all admissions requirements for NMSU, have earned a high school GPA of 3.5 or greater, and have a composite ACT score of 23 or greater or an SAT score of 1060 or greater.”
The application process for the OMPP is separate from the admissions application for NMSU. All students interested in the OMPP must also complete an application for admission to NMSU. The application period for the next fall cohort of the OMPP started on Aug. 1. To apply for the OMPP, candidates must complete an admissions application for NMSU (http://admissions.nmsu.edu) and complete the OMPP Supplemental Application. This application includes the OMPP Application Form (found on the OMPP website: http://ompp.nmsu.edu), a typed, two-page personal essay and three letters of recommendation.
Complete applications must be received or postmarked on or before Dec. 15. Applications will be reviewed by a committee of faculty and staff from both NMSU and BCOM. Top candidates will attend an on-campus interview at NMSU in mid-February. Successful candidates will be notified in mid-March of their acceptance into the OMPP for the following fall semester.
During their time in the OMPP, students must complete all NMSU undergraduate courses required for admission to BCOM with a grade of B or greater. Students must also complete at minimum 15 credits per semester and maintain an overall GPA of 3.3 or greater in all college coursework to remain eligible. Students must participate in all official activities associated with the program, unless excused by the OMPP director. In addition, OMPP students will be required to live on campus and participate in a dedicated Living Learning Community during their first year of undergraduate study.
During their third year, each student will be required to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and earn a score in the 50th percentile or greater. Students will be required to earn a baccalaureate degree in a major of their choosing. By Dec. 15 of the year prior to their expected enrollment in BCOM, OMPP students will sign a letter of commitment to attend BCOM in the academic semester following their graduation from NMSU.
The Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine at New Mexico State University is a freestanding, privately funded, separately licensed and independently operated entity, and is not a part of New Mexico State University.
For more information on the OMPP program, visit the website at http://ompp.nmsu.edu
Author: Darrell J. Pehr – NMSU