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New class puts medical school at full capacity

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce
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Nearly 2,900 students applied for 42 slots in the medical
school’s entering class. Photo courtesy Virginia Tech

The three-year-old Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke has reached a major milestone: full student capacity.

The school’s 168 students include the inaugural class, which will graduate next May. “This is very exciting,” says Dean Cynda Johnson. “We look back and I can’t believe we already have our full house. In retrospect it came very quickly.”

The 42 students who  started this school year will graduate in 2017. The number of students in the class is purposeful. “We have a problem-based, patient-centered curriculum with six groups of seven students each,” says Johnson. “Our students work with patient cases in their groups.”

Nearly 2,900 students applied to be part of this year’s entering class. The school accepted fewer than 2 percent. “We give offers to fewer than 100 students to get the class of 42,” says Johnson, noting that some students receiving offers choose to attend other medical schools.

Research is one of the mainstays of the medical school. This school year more than half — 24 — of the entering class members have exceptional research experience, including articles published in journals and in some cases patents from their research. “Many have advanced degrees, some have worked in research labs, and some have worked for the National Institutes of Health,” Johnson says.

The number of incoming students with exceptional research experience this year was almost double the number of last year’s class. The school believes that is one reason these students were looking for a research-focused school. “We want them to use research principles to enhance their practice skills,” Johnson says. “We want them to be scientists/physicians because we know that almost all go to medical school with the intention of practicing medicine. Research gives physicians another tool.”

The school’s faculty draws from Carilion Clinic and Virginia Tech. “We didn’t have to hire new people from the outside when we opened,” Johnson says, adding that after the 2014 class graduates, the school will have full accreditation, which will be retroactive to the first graduating class. The school currently has provisional accreditation. “We are on the home stretch,” Johnson says.


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