New accelerated program to be offered to WVU medical students

MORGANTOWN — For WVU students who enter the medical program, beginning with the class of 2022, they will have the opportunity to apply for a program that will save them money and allow them to graduate early.

The curriculum committee for WVU has been working to develop the new Mountaineer Accelerated Track to Enter Residency (MATTER) Program. Scott Cottrell, associate dean for student services and curriculum at WVU, said that the total savings/earnings projected for students in the MATTER Program is $65,000.

Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean for health sciences at WVU said the impact of the new program will be quite beneficial to the community.

“The sooner we can get the next class of highly trained medical professionals into our communities, the bigger the impact on the patient’s health,” Marsh said. “MATTER allows us to fast-track a few of our highest performing students, helping them to enter the workforce faster while delivering access to quality care and resources in the communities they serve.”

According to Cottrell, other medical schools across the country have also been exploring what are known as “accelerated tracks to the M.D degree.” Cottrell said that the schools meet periodically to discuss their models and continue to develop an accelerated program for students in the medical field. WVU took a year studying medical schools and how they manage their programs, in addition to their experiences with an accelerated program in the medical field.

“We have great leadership here at West Virginia University,” Cottrell said. “They don’t shy away from innovation. They explored this innovative model, approved us to move forward with it and we hope in the long-run we’ll be able to recruit those excellent students, help them train in our state and ultimately serve our own citizens.”

According the Cottrell, the MATTER Program is 137 weeks long, 16 weeks shorter than the normal M.D. curriculum at WVU. Cottrell added that there will only be 10-15 spots for residency committed to the MATTER Program, and he suspects that it will be a “fairly competitive” program.

WVU then developed MATTER with what they acquired from other universities that offer similar programs and will be talking to students in the medical program fall of 2018 to introduce the program to them and how they can apply.

“The students in the class of 2022 will be the first students who can apply for the MATTER track and through a competitive process if they’re selected,” Cottrell said. “We’ll start introducing this new track to the new entering medical student class of 2022 and we’ll discuss with them how the curriculum is different.”

According to Cottrell, next summer students entering the medical field have the option to participate and explore their options to help them narrow down what they want to specifically focus on with their major.

“Students will get a chance to explore their career interests in the summer of 2019. Students can participate in what we call externships and these are rotations, learning experiences and some of our residency programs,” Cottrell said. “They can explore whether they want to pursue these particular specialties. If they want to commit to one of our residencies, after exploring all their options, then next year they’ll apply through a competitive process.”

Cottrell said the students that students have to meet the learning requirements of a typical M.D. student and will look for “exceptional students who can negotiate the curriculum very well and in an abridged way.”

“It’s no secret that rising student debt is a concern, so we’re hopeful that MATTER does several things: it helps some of our best and brightest students consider one of our own residency programs, so it’s very much of a recruitment tool. It does help limit student debt, and ultimately we hope these students are educated here in West Virginia, complete their residency here at West Virginia University and ultimately become physicians in our state, serving our citizens in our communities,” Cottrell said.

Medical students at WVU are projected to begin their medical path on Aug. 1 and from there, Cottrell is excited to explain to the students how they may consider applying to the new program and introduce it as a new option for them.

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