All years of pre-med on one campus

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Staying put: Indiana University Northwest senior Miracle Anokwute will be able to pursue his goal of becoming a doctor entirely at the same campus through the Freshmen to Physicians program, which expanded the Indiana University School of Medicine - Northwest from a two-year to a four-year program. | Supplied photo

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Merrillville resident and Indiana University Northwest senior Miracle Anokwute is going to become a doctor.

And, thanks to the Freshman to Physician Experience at IU Northwest, he can do that on the same local IU campus where he has pursued pre-med biology studies for the past three years.

“For students who want to go into a medical profession, our campus is great for it because we offer our medical school right there,” said Anokwute, who received his acceptance letter to the IU School of Medicine - Northwest (IUSM-NW) last month.

“The opportunities are here for people,” he said. “At the medical school, they are really nice to pre-meds. They are there to help us. Our pre-med advisors are there to help us, and they do the best that they can to get us where they want us to be — in medical school.”

Anokwute will join several current medical students, IU Northwest faculty members and admissions representatives on campus at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17, for an informational session about pre-professional and med-school studies.

Expansion of IUSM-NW from a two-year to a four-year program in 2010 made it possible for local med students to remain here for their third and fourth years of medical school and furnished them with the opportunity to undertake experiential learning and research projects related to public-health issues that affect Northwest Indiana communities.

Advantage for community

As part of their fourth-year electives, IUSM-NW students may also choose to pursue month-long rotations at Chicago hospitals and may pursue residency programs there after graduation.

“Northwest Indiana, like the rest of the state, faces a future shortage of physicians,” said Patrick Bankston, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health and Human Services and associate dean and director for IUSM-NW. “By enabling students to complete all four years of medical school here in Northwest Indiana, we expect them to have the kinds of professional experiences and relationships that will lead them to practice here and provide our citizens with skilled and compassionate medical care.”

For undergraduate pre-med students at IU Northwest, Anokwute said, the presence of a four-year medical school creates learning opportunities that simply are not available at other campuses. He has worked with Carl Marfurt, Ph.D., an IUSM-NW professor of anatomy and cell biology, on research related to nerve damage and regeneration in the human eye.

“I love research, because it allowed me to do the science part of medicine,” said Anokwute, whose family emigrated from Nigeria to Northwest Indiana when he was 9 years old. “I don’t think I would have had that opportunity if I had gone elsewhere.”

Benefits other programs

Bankston explained that the close partnership between the medical school and other health-profession programs at the Northwest campus has resulted in a dynamic, cross-disciplinary educational model that benefits both the medical students and those in nursing, social work, radiologic sciences, pre-medicine and other disciplines.

“For students who want to become physicians, there is added value to studying on a campus that has a medical school on site,” Bankston said. “Our students have the opportunity to conduct research with faculty from the medical school. They are able to participate in programs that enhance their academic learning experience.

“And, they are able to develop collegial relationships with current medical students and with their own pre-med peers, some of whom will continue on to medical school here as part of the Freshman to Physician Experience,” he added.

Anokwute sat for his IUSM admissions interview in early September. Surprisingly, most of the interview questions did not focus on academics but rather on his research, volunteer and extracurricular activities.

“By participating in volunteering activities, by participating in extracurricular activities, it shows, first of all, that you are able to work with other people from multiple backgrounds,” he explained. “It shows that you are able to talk to people and communicate effectively. It shows that you can balance your time. So the extracurricular activities are very important.”

Giving back

Anokwute was careful not to dismiss the importance of academic performance. Most pre-professional students at IU Northwest pursue degrees in biology, chemistry or psychology, and the coursework is decidedly rigorous. But good grades and strong test scores are not enough, he said.

“The numbers are important. You need to have those numbers if you want to get in,” Anokwute said. “But a number doesn’t tell you if you are going to be a great doctor or not. A number doesn’t tell you if you are going to be good to your patients or not.”

Anokwute hopes to become a great doctor. And, he plans to practice in Northwest Indiana, bringing quality health care to the region’s underserved populations.

“I am the kind of person who likes to give back,” he said.

For more information on the Freshman to Physician Experience at IU Northwest, or to RSVP for the information session on Nov. 17, visit iun.edu, or call (219) 981-4348.

Provided by Indiana University Northwest