GVSU signs early assurance agreement with CMU College of Medicine

GVL / Courtesy - gvsu.edu 
From left are President Thomas J. Haas, CMU medical student Shelby Falkenhagen, a GVSU graduate, and CMU President George Ross.

GVL / Courtesy – gvsu.edu From left are President Thomas J. Haas, CMU medical student Shelby Falkenhagen, a GVSU graduate, and CMU President George Ross.

Anne Marie Smit

Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas signed an early assurance agreement with Central Michigan University President George Ross Thursday, Oct. 19. Starting in winter 2018, GVSU premedical students can apply for an early assurance of admission to the CMU College of Medicine.

This program with CMU was initiated by Jean Nagelkerk, nursing professor and vice provost for health at GVSU, who connected with the dean of the College of Medicine at CMU, George Kikano, about starting an early assurance program for GVSU students.

The early assurance agreement signed with CMU is the third agreement of its kind that GVSU has with Michigan universities: GVSU also collaborates with Michigan State University’s and Wayne State University’s medical programs. What makes the CMU assurance agreement unique is its emphasis on providing health care to rural, underserved communities. 

“Central Michigan University’s mission for their College of Medicine is to provide rural primary care physicians,” Nagelkerk said. “This gives our students an opportunity who want to work in a rural area as a primary care provider to have those experiences while they’re in med school.”

There are many advantages for GVSU premedical students who apply to the early assurance program with CMU, including access to health care panels and information sessions, among other benefits.

“Students benefit because there are structured learning activities for them to engage in during their freshman, sophomore and junior year,” Nagelkerk said. “Some of the learning opportunities offered through this program are information sessions on medicine and health care, access to premedical counseling and advising through Central Michigan’s College of Medicine and through Grand Valley, attendance on health care panels and conferences, engagement in community service learning activities, and research with faculty and community members.”

Maria Cimitile, provost and executive vice president for academic and student affairs at GVSU, explained the forward focus of the early assurance program, which allows students to discern early on in their college career the kind of community they would like to serve and how to begin impacting those communities.

“Our students have the opportunity to decide early if they want to be a physician that serves the rural communities of Michigan,” Cimitile said via email. “This benefits students as they plan their future and makes the path forward much easier.”

Nagelkerk said one of the biggest advantages students have through the early assurance program is the early application into graduate school. If they are accepted, they can focus more on maximizing their last year as an undergraduate student instead of going through a cumbersome graduate school application process.

“Students who want to apply for the early assurance program have an early application,” she said. “They apply in the winter of their junior year, and they have an early decision before they start their senior year. So, those students who get accepted don’t have to keep applying for medical schools. 

“They can focus on increasing their knowledge base and skill sets and engage in higher-impact learning experiences.”

Due to many medical facilities centering in urban areas, there is a shortage of medical staff providing for rural communities in the state of Michigan. The early assurance program with CMU will prioritize students who wish to work in a rural area after finishing medical school, which Cimitile said is in accordance with the GVSU mission to educate students to serve their communities.

“Students who matriculate at Grand Valley and then CMU are committed to making sure that the health needs of those that live in rural communities are addressed and that all Michiganders are cared for by physicians, along with other health professionals,” Cimitile said.

Many times, Nagelkerk noted, students who complete their clinicals in rural areas will likely return to those communities, which will help all of the citizens in the state of Michigan have equal access to health care, no matter where they live.

“In the state of Michigan, the rural community has significant challenges in recruiting and retaining physicians to work in their clinics and health care settings,” Nagelkerk said. “We know that individuals who are from rural areas or who do their clinicals in rural areas will probably go back and practice in those communities, which is a significant benefit for the citizens.”