Med School Rises On The Hill

October 5, 2007
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Construction of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids is right on schedule, and the university is making progress on the design of the building that will be known as the Secchia Center.

As of now, the most visible part of the future med school is the parking deck that’s going up on the corner of Michigan Street and Division Avenue. The university will begin construction of the Secchia Center, which will be built on top of the parking deck, in the spring of next year.

Marsha Rappley, dean of MSU College of Human Medicine, said the school has enrolled its first expanded class of 156 first-year students this fall. They will attend classes in East Lansing this year and then 50 of them will begin their second year of study at the school’s temporary headquarters at 234 N. Division Ave. in Grand Rapids in August 2008, joining the third- and fourth-year students already being trained in Grand Rapids.

Space in that four-story building is being remodeled to accommodate the additional med students, Rappley said. The College of Human Medicine dean’s office and administrative headquarters will move into the Secchia Center upon its opening in fall 2010.

“We have hired key physician leadership positions in the medical school education program, and they are all Grand Rapids physicians who have been teaching our students for 20-plus years,” Rappley said.

Those physicians will spend 25 percent to 50 percent of their time in teaching roles at the med school, but there will be many other physicians who will have a smaller teaching commitment, Rappley observed. The other physicians will spend 2007 to 2008 in faculty development, learning about the College of Human Medicine curriculum so they’re ready when the new students arrive in 2008, she said.

“We’re going to be piloting some innovative curricular ideas, but it’s important for accreditation that we deliver the same basic curriculum in every site we operate,” Rappley said. “We will continue to do that, but on top of that, there are some new programs we have planned. The research pieces of the curriculum will be tied in with the Van Andel Research Institute.”

By the time the Secchia Center opens, about 100 first-year students will begin taking classes in Grand Rapids. By 2014, the med school will be training 800 students each year, nearly twice its current capacity. Of those, 350 will train in Grand Rapids and 240 in East Lansing. The remaining students, in their third and fourth years, will train at various locations in Flint, Kalamazoo, Saginaw and the Upper Peninsula.

“We have always been community based, and we will continue to be community based,” Rappley noted. “We are sending more students to each one of those communities, but the largest number of students still come to Grand Rapids; it has always been our largest campus.”

Perhaps no one is more excited about the opening of the MSU College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids than the students who will earn their medical degrees there.

Rachel Hagert of Shorewood, Wis., earned her bachelor’s degree in history from Calvin College and then spent a year working as a patient-care assistant at Saint Mary’s Health Care.

She got to know Grand Rapids and learned about MSU’s plan to build an expanded College of Human Medicine on Michigan Street.  “I felt like I had a lot of connections here, which is why I chose it for my final three years of medical education,” she said.

Among other experiences, Hagert taught an English conversation course at the medical school in Yemen, and she later spent time in Uganda analyzing the integration of its health development.

Grand Rapids native Joel Krauss received his bachelor’s degree in biopsychology from the University of Michigan, where he helped start a local chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation. He also volunteered in the transplant department at U-M Hospital, as well as the emergency department at Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids. Kraus said he has wanted to be a physician ever since he can remember. What initially drew him to medicine was a fascination with the sciences coupled with his desire to work with people, he said. Plus, he had “passionate” teachers in school who supported and spurred his interest in science.

“I personally wanted to pursue a medical education in Grand Rapids because of the vast expansion of its medical community. It’s really quite exciting,” Krauss said. “The field is constantly changing, and the health care system needs facilities and personnel to stay on pace with these changes and the growing demands. The Grand Rapids area recognizes this need and is adapting and expanding in an effort to become a leader in the future of health care. MSU’s College of Human Medicine is only a part of the growth in the health care field in the area.”     HQ

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