By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — Bassett Medical Center has become a sought-after destination for aspiring medical students from across the country, thanks in part to a recent partnership with Columbia University.
“We formed a partnership with Columbia to develop a special track within the existing Columbia Medical School,” said Henry Weil, Assistant Dean for Education at Bassett Healthcare for Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Weil said that Bassett received interest from a number of medical schools, but ultimately decided to partner with Columbia University in New York City.
The Columbia-Bassett Program began admitting students in 2010, and will graduate its first class next year.
The program has drawn between 700-971 applicants a year for just 10 slots. Every year, students apply from all 50 states and from more than 200 colleges.
“The number of applicants per space is as high as any medical school in the United States,” said Weil.
Weil said that Columbia has been sending medical students to Bassett to do rotations since 1931. Before the establishment of the Columbia-Bassett program, five medical schools were sending students to Bassett.
Weil and Dr. Walter Franck, now senior associate dean for the Bassett affiliation at Columbia, saw the opportunity, however, to establish a program that would be based in Bassett Medical Center.
Weil said Basset is an integrated environment, where doctors with a variety of specialties, as well as other health care providers, work for the same organization. Weil said that integrated environments such as Bassett help to facilitate the sharing of goals and information and improve patient care.
“The idea of training students in an environment such as that was very appealing to us,” said Weil.
Weil also noted the quality of Bassett’s doctors, and their ability to teach.
“We obviously ... had a faculty at Bassett that is quite gifted at teaching,” said Weil.
During orientation week, students in the Columbia Bassett Program spend their first day at a family-run business in Otsego County. Weil says that this is done to give the program’s student perspective on the impact that practicing medicine can have.
After orientation, Columbia Bassett students spend their first 18 months doing pre-clinical work at Columbia University, following the same curriculum as other Columbia students. They then move up to Cooperstown, where they spend their major clinical year. After their major clinical year, students may work elsewhere, but remain based in Cooperstown.
As for the students the program attracts, Weil said that there is a generation of people entering medical school who see that the U.S. health care system has serious problems. Weil said that the Columbia-Bassett Program offers a lot to such students, both from a patient care and health care systems perspective.
“Dr. Franck and I are hoping to find the students who are driven by a sense of purpose to make health care better and have the best possible impact on their patients,” said Weil.