The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that the U.S. is in the early stages of an escalating physician shortage, with shortfalls between 37,800 and 124,000 doctors predicted by 2034.
That shortage is being addressed at least locally by Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ), Rowan University and the Rowan-Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine (SOM) with the introduction of a new Pathway to Medicine program that offers an accelerated path for high-achieving seniors in Cumberland and Gloucester counties to train as D.O.s (Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine) at a medical school close to home.
The Pathway to Medicine program was introduced at the Rowan-Virtua SOM in Stratford, a four-year medical school that made history in 2022 when it became the first in New Jersey’s history to open a location on a community college campus.
The Rowan-Virtua SOM is one of only 41 osteopathic medicine schools in the country, according to the American Osteopathic Association’s accrediting board, which also reports that applications to osteopathic medicine schools have increased by 93% between 2011 and 2022. This year, they will educate 25% of all U.S. medical students.
Through the Pathway to Medicine, incoming medical school freshmen earn their A.S. in biology from Rowan College, then transfer into Rowan University’s biology baccalaureate program. After their junior year, the five top-ranking students from Cumberland and Gloucester counties will be guaranteed acceptance into the Rowan-Virtua SOM, where they complete their senior year while enrolled in the first of seven years of medical school.
“It’s been well shown that if you go to medical school in your state, and you complete graduate medical education in your state, you are likely to practice medicine in your state,” remarked Dr. Thomas Cavalieri, vice president of the medical school and chief academic officer for Virtua Health.
Exceptionally motivated high school students interested in the Pathway to Medicine can save even more time and money if they choose to jump start their A.S. in biology through the Rowan College High School Option program (HSOP), which allows students from 15 to 18 to attend the school at a discounted tuition rate. Students may choose to satisfy a few course requirements toward their future degree, or even complete their A.S. in biology while still in high school and potentially begin medical school one year after high-school graduation.
Students will receive the support they need to meet the challenges of medical school and excel at each step along the Pathway to Medicine, including specialized academic and career advising and peer mentoring.
Flexibility is also built into the program. If a student decides the accelerated pathway does not best suit their needs, or if they are not selected to fill one of the guaranteed seats, they can choose to continue at the standard pace and apply to Rowan-Virtua SOM after earning their bachelor’s.
“The collective goal for the Pathway to Medicine is to support the success of aspiring doctors in our own Cumberland and Gloucester County high schools by offering a more affordable, accessible, and local pathway to a D.O.,” outlined Dr. Frederick Keating, president of Rowan College.
“Our foremost concern for this pathway was ensuring that students from populations underrepresented within the profession had the economic support required to finance medical school.”
The Pathway to Medicine will soon begin accepting applications for the fall 2024 semester. They will be reviewed by a joint committee comprised of members from each institution. High-school GPA, class rank and letters of recommendation – along with SAT or ACT scores in verbal and math components – are necessary for acceptance.
Fill out an interest form to be contacted once the Pathway to Medicine opens for applications at RCSJ.edu/STEM/Biology.