Jun 15, 2011 | 6 Comments
By Molly Walker
Of the News-Register
Students from throughout the Yamhill Valley are preparing for the looming end of the school year, including four osteopathic medicine students just completing the first year of a program which put them in a rotation with doctors at McMinnville's Willamette Valley Medical Center.
The four are enrolled in the Northwest Track at Western University of Health Sciences, based in Pomona, Calif. The track's executive director, Dirk Foley, said it is limited to 30 students, all of whom either hold permanent residency or undergraduate degrees from one of the six Northwest states.
Western was founded as the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, COMP for short, in 1977. It assumed its present name in 1996.
It is planning to open an Oregon campus in Lebanon next fall under the COMP-Northwest name. The first new medical school to open in Oregon in more than 100 years, it plans to welcome 100 students in August, selected from 2,500 applicants, and add another 100 each of the three following years.
Dr. Mike Jaczko, a family practice osteopath employed by the hospital who sees patients at Family Tree Healthcare in Carlton, was the driving force behind the local hospital rotation. He felt the pending opening of a Western branch in Oregon demanded creation of such opportunities in the state.
Jaczko, who serves as team doctor at Yamhill-Carlton High School and Linfield College, said he's been teaching students for years. When he learned that Western was going to expand its reach into Oregon he thought, "Wow! We're going to need some extension sites."
Jaczko, who serves as a regional director for the school, met with CEO Rosemari Davis to discuss the idea. She readily agreed to host a quartet of third-year medical students.
"We historically have had a very strong advocacy for students in our hospital," said Davis, who recently announced her retirement. She said the hospital had hosted student nurses for decades, so why not student doctors?
"We wanted to grow our own," she said. "Every person in this hospital has been a student somewhere."
Davis said there were challenges, but they were met head-on. "More than 20 of our staff had to become adjunct faculty, and they did," she said.
The hospital also had to meet the level of curriculum necessary for medical students in their third year. And an orientation program had to be developed.
Davis said Jaczko was very intuitive when he suggested the hospital offer help with living arrangements, as medical students, like most students, tend to be broke. She said that's given Willamette Valley an advantage over other facilities.
Jaczko said positions go unfilled at some hospitals, "but McMinnville's a site they have to have a lottery for."
He said the hospital has been subsidizing rent in Carlton residences, and that makes all the difference. "For a medical student who pays $50,000 a year, that's really important," he said.
Jaczko raved about the results.
"The hospital's nothing short of fabulous," he said. "The staff is excited and invigorated. It's great to see physicians get together and want to make this a wonderful experience."
Student Tom Gray was sitting in a classroom on Western's Pomona campus when he learned about a new rotation opening in McMinnville.
His parents raised him in Forest Grove and his own family now lives in Newberg, so it was a natural for him. He could hardly believe his good fortune.
He has an unusual resume.
He studied to become an engineer, specializing in robotics, then took a belated U-turn into medicine. He's now 35, making him the oldest member of the student team.
Gray explains the switch this way: He was an engineer who problem-solved on robots. Now he's training to become a problem-solver on people, and finds, "It's really more interesting."
As a third-year student, Gray rotated through various specialties, including pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, family practice, surgery and internal medicine, learning from many doctors along the way. While he spent the largest amount of time at Willamette Valley, he also put in hours at Salem Hospital and Albany General.
He served his final eight weeks in internal medicine at Willamette Valley, and it fit what he envisioned as a medical student. He put in a solid 12 hours a day with patients.
"Rounds on patients were fun," Gray said. "The patients were great. That's where I felt I was really a part of the hospital."
He said that working with nursing students was also a plus.
"From a student's perspective, it's nice to have other students," he said. "It puts people in a teaching mood."
Gray's next stop will be a hospital where he can focus on a specialty, probably obstetrics and gynecology. By July 1, 2012, he expects to begin a four-year residency program.
"Five years from now, I'll be a doctor looking at joining a group or opening a practice," he said. "So if this is job recruitment, it's a long term process."
But he does want to return to this area to practice. And that resonates with Davis.
"It's the right thing to do for the students, community and the hospital," she said. The next stage, she said, is to begin offering a residency program.
"We're taking growing your own to the physician level," she said.
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