7/03/18

Carle Illinois College of Medicine welcomes first class of students

No bells will ring but the hallways of Carle are abuzz with first-day excitement just the same as a cohort of physician-innovators exemplifying compassion, competence, curiosity and creativity joins the ranks.

“We are so excited to welcome the very first medical students who will set the model of excellence and disruptive innovation that the health care industry needs today and in the future,” said James C. Leonard, MD, Carle president and CEO.

The Carle Illinois College of Medicine (CI COM) first class represents 27 undergraduate institutions from across the United States. The unique, engineering-focused curriculum led to stringent admission requirements beyond the usual premedical track, such as high-level mathematics, computer science or other quantitative courses.

Twenty-two of the 32 students have engineering degrees, five have mathematics or computer science degrees, and five have biology or biochemistry degrees. In addition, 13 of the incoming students have graduate degrees – 10 hold a master’s degree, and three a Ph.D. Half are women and half are men. Each speaks an average of three languages. Six of the students, or nearly 19 percent of the class, are underrepresented minorities in medicine. Ten were born outside of the United States. Another seven were born in California.

“The high percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, targeted minorities and women in our inaugural class – even with our requirements of advanced quantitative skills in addition to traditional pre-med prerequisites – says a lot about our innovative curriculum and admission process,” said King Li, MD, the dean of the college.  

In departure from standard medical education, the students will experience clinical immersion from the start. The clinical training will incorporate engineering principles, problem solving and innovation as well as the classroom curriculum.

“While the idea of incorporating engineering principles into medical education is not new, our direct and holistic integration, particularly into the clinical training process, is the first of its kind in the world,” said Blair Rowitz, MD, associate dean for clinical affairs CI COM and Carle’s associate chief medical officer, Surgical Services.

Bringing engineers into patient care sites – operating rooms, clinics and hospitals – to work directly with students and faculty will identify and develop collaborative innovation and research ideas. At the end of each clinical rotation, the students will be asked to develop and propose an engineering-based solution to a clinical problem they encountered in the patient–care setting.

The students are eager to be the first to experience the college’s case-driven, problem-based, active learning curriculum.

“When I think about how I want to grow in healthcare as a future physician-innovator, I feel compelled to fill gaps not just in knowledge, but also in communication and understanding,” said incoming student Elizabeth Woodburn, also a University of Illinois alumna, having earned her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering. “Creating a solution isn’t enough; medicine presents a constant stream of challenges that require a tailored blend of foresight, expertise and willingness to try a different approach.”