TCMC Partners With Wilkes University and LCCC to Develop Pipeline to Careers in Medicine

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Media contact: Kate Delmar,
Manager of Marketing Communications
(570) 498-2378 kdelmar@tcmedc.org 

Partners to guide disadvantaged and minority students toward medical school & science-related fields

The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) announced today that it has entered into memorandums of understanding with Wilkes University (Wilkes) and Luzerne County Community College (LCCC) to develop the region’s first pipeline to careers in medicine program.  Through the agreements, TCMC will lead a coordinated effort to initially target rural, disadvantaged, women, minority and first generation students in Luzerne County – specifically in Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton. 

“TCMC was launched with the goal of addressing the region’s shortage of physicians.  Today’s announcement represents another down payment on our commitment to improve area health care by increasing the number and diversity of our health care professionals.  We are grateful to Wilkes and LCCC for joining us in the first part of our journey.  Our partnership will lay the foundation upon which we will build, grow and replicate in other areas a successful pipeline to careers in medicine program.  These agreements will also pave the way for us to expand our pipeline program and reach students at the middle and high school levels,” stated Robert D’Alessandri, MD, President and Dean of TCMC.

The Pipeline to Medical Colleges Initiative is a pilot project designed to engage the nation’s community colleges, four-year colleges and universities and medical schools in a coordinated effort to identify and support community college students from rural areas, along with students underrepresented in medicine who are likely to practice in those regions, and who show an early interest in the field.

The pilot has been created in response to a request from the College Board, a not-for-profit membership association whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity.  The organization asked institutions in Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Maryland to develop plans to move more students toward medical schools in response to the documented need for more doctors in the coming decade.

College Board President Gaston Caperton said, “There will be no real or lasting economic recovery until America has adequate health care; the Pipeline Initiative will create important partnerships that will benefit communities and our nation. By offering access to primary care physicians and other health care professionals, business and industry will be drawn to new areas of the country stimulating their economies. Thus, the need to support such an initiative is compelling.”
 In December 2008, Pennsylvania’s Department of Education reported that the majority of eleventh graders scored below grade level in 85% of the state’s school districts.  The Department further revealed that while 81.5% of fourth grade students scored at grade level in science, performance fell to 52.7% by eighth grade, and further fell to just 35.7% by eleventh grade.

Robert Wright, MD, Chairman of TCMC’s Board of Directors, stated, “Our region is obviously facing a major problem in terms of its need for more highly educated individuals to fill the void of scientists, physicians and other health care professionals.  Economic growth related to TCMC’s creation and development can escape the region’s residents unless we are adequately prepared to increase student science proficiencies, develop a highly skilled workforce to support economic development and improve the quality of life for an increasingly diverse community.”

Ida L. Castro, MA, JD, Vice President of Social Justice and Diversity for TCMC, is leading the institution’s pipeline efforts.

“We are excited that this unique public/private partnership will provide additional opportunities to our region’s disadvantaged and minority students and will expand their career path options.  A more diverse body of medical professionals will serve the area’s increasingly diverse population, diminishing health care disparities among various ethnic and minority groups.  Since community colleges serve as an entry point for many disadvantaged and minority students, we view our collaboration at the middle school, high school and community college levels as critical in the effort to guide students through the education pipeline toward careers in medicine,” stated Castro.

Wilkes and LCCC have already agreed to partner with TCMC to create innovative bridges leading university and community college students to excellence in science.   TCMC expects that, in the near future, it will develop and announce similar agreements with additional academic institutions, including the area’s public school systems.

Tim Gilmour, PhD, President of Wilkes, stated, “This exciting partnership compliments the grant we’ve received from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to redesign our science curriculum and expand programs for middle-school and Latino girls. Through this collaboration between our new Center for Global Education and Diversity and the TCMC’s Office of Social Justice and Diversity, our institutions will work together in support of efforts to help the region grow.”

“From LCCC’s perspective, this is an exciting opportunity to contribute to a program that will allow us to partner with our regional colleges and universities as well as the new medical school.  We welcome the opportunity to further ensure educational excellence in our students’ experience at LCCC and post-graduation success,” added Thomas P. Leary, President of LCCC.

Community colleges educate almost half of all U.S. undergraduates and are an indispensable asset in the increasing challenge to provide a growing workforce with well-educated and capable employees.

“Programs such as the Pipeline Initiative provide opportunities to students who would otherwise not have the guidance and resources to become doctors, scientists or nurse practitioners. The skills of these graduates will improve the quality of life in communities across the United States. The College Board is delighted to be the catalyst in this innovative program,” stated Ronald Williams, PhD, a Vice President of the College Board.

The College Board is a not-for-profit membership association whose mission is to connect students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the College Board is composed of more than 5,600 schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations. Each year, the College Board serves seven million students and their parents, 23,000 high schools and 3,800 colleges through major programs and services in college admissions, guidance, assessment, financial aid, enrollment and teaching and learning. Among its best-known programs are the SAT®, the PSAT/NMSQT® and the Advanced Placement Program® (AP®). The College Board is committed to the principles of excellence and equity, and that commitment is embodied in all of its programs, services, activities and concerns.

The Commonwealth Medical College is a new medical school that will serve all of Northeastern Pennsylvania and expects to accept sixty medical students and thirty Master of Biomedical Sciences (MBS) students in the fall of 2009. The College has campuses in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport. The Commonwealth Medical College is dedicated to training the next generation of physicians in a community-based model. Focusing on selecting students with a propensity for community service, the school’s unique structure is designed to provide these students with diverse clinical experiences from the very first day of their education. For information please go to www.thecommonwealthmedical.com.

The Commonwealth Medical College is an Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE).