The Carle Illinois College of Medicine, the world’s first engineering-based medical school, welcomed its first class of 32 students July 2.

A partnership between the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Carle Health System, the college aims to create a cohort of physician-innovators who exemplify the qualities of compassion, competence, curiosity and creativity. The students will receive full four-year tuition scholarships, privately funded, valued at more than $200,000 each.

“We are so excited to welcome our inaugural class – the very first that will chart the course of our new medical school and set the model of excellence and disruptive innovation that the health care industry needs today and in the future,” said Rashid Bashir, the executive associate dean and chief diversity officer of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine. “They will be the future innovators and physician-leaders that we all look forward to helping to succeed and be the best in whatever they do.”

The first class represents 27 undergraduate institutions from across the United States. The unique, engineering-focused nature of the curriculum led to stringent admission requirements beyond the usual premedical track, such as high-level mathematics, computer science or other quantitative courses. Twenty-two out of the 32 students have engineering degrees, five have mathematics or computer science degrees, and five have biology or biochemistry degrees.  In addition, 13 of the incoming students have graduate degrees – 10 hold a master’s degree, and three a Ph.D.

“I would like to encourage the students to take the opportunities to learn from each other in addition to taking advantage of the breadth and depth of expertise in the Carle Illinois College of Medicine and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,” said Dr. King Li, the dean of the college.

Of the 32 students, half are women and half are men. Each speaks an average of three languages. Six of the students, or nearly 19 percent of the class, are underrepresented minorities in medicine. Ten were born outside of the United States. Another seven were born in the state of California.

“The high percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, targeted minorities and women in our inaugural class – even with our requirements of advanced quantitative skills in addition to traditional pre-med prerequisites – says a lot about our innovative curriculum and admission process,” Li said.

In another departure from standard medical education, the students will receive clinical immersion from the start. The clinical training will incorporate engineering principles, problem solving and innovation as well as the classroom curriculum, said Dr. Blair Rowitz, the associate dean for clinical affairs of the college and the associate chief medical officer of surgical services at Carle Foundation Hospital.

“While the idea of incorporating engineering principles into medical education is not new, our direct and holistic integration, particularly into the clinical training process, is the first of its kind in the world,” Rowitz said. “We will accomplish this by bringing engineers into our patient care sites – operating rooms, clinics and hospitals – to work directly with students and faculty to identify and develop collaborative innovation and research ideas. At the end of each clinical rotation, the students will be asked to develop and propose an engineering-based solution to a clinical problem they encountered in the patient care setting.”

The students are eager to be the first to experience the college’s case-driven, problem-based, active learning curriculum, which also includes mentorship, simulation, access to the university’s medical maker lab, medical humanities and more.

“When I think about how I want to grow in healthcare as a future physician-innovator, I feel compelled to fill gaps not just in knowledge, but also in communication and understanding,” said incoming student Elizabeth Woodburn, also an Illinois alumna, having earned her bachelor’s degree in bioengineering in May. “Creating a solution isn’t enough; medicine presents a constant stream of challenges that require a tailored blend of foresight, expertise and willingness to try a different approach.”

The first class of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine will graduate in 2022.


See original article by Liz Touchstone here.