Nathan Katz, Amy Mehlman and Rosemary Oaks are just the type of high-achieving student the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine hoped to attract when it launched its Early Assurance Programs in 2013.
The three first-year medical students are all from Ohio. They are committed to health care careers. And they recognize the benefits of a program that offers a streamlined path to the Heritage College and access to resources and mentors to prepare them for medical school.
Since 2013, the Heritage College has signed EAP partnerships with five universities across the state: Ohio University, Baldwin-Wallace, John Carroll, Ohio Dominican and Otterbein. Through these partnerships, selected students from Ohio can earn both undergraduate and D.O. degrees in as little as seven years, if they meet criteria for coursework and academic performance.
“The class of 2021 is truly outstanding in many different ways – academic profile, diversity, the number of first - generation college students, and a very strong showing of students from within the state of Ohio,” said John D. Schriner, Ph.D., associate dean for admissions and student affairs. “But one characteristic of the class I am especially proud of is the fact that we had our very first EAP participants matriculate to the Heritage College this year. We planted the seeds of the EAP five years ago, and we are now seeing the fruits of our labor.”
Mehlman and Oaks, who are enrolled at the Athens and Dublin campuses respectively, both attended OHIO. Katz, who studies at the Heritage College, Cleveland, is a graduate of Baldwin-Wallace.
Baldwin Wallace students enrolled in its Primary Care Advancement Program can apply to the EAP during their spring semester of their sophomore year in college, for admittance to the Heritage College after graduation. Students at the other EAP schools apply to the program during their senior year of high school, with options to either complete four years of undergraduate training or have their first year of medical school count as their final undergraduate year.
Students accepted into EAPs are exempted from having to take the Medical College Admission Test and receive mentoring from a Heritage College student; access to programming and activities that introduce them to the medical school experience; and the chance to shadow physicians in clinical settings while they are still undergraduates.
All three EAP students said the program seemed custom-made to support their education and career plans.
Oaks, who comes from the Columbus suburb of Worthington, is a legacy student whose parents, James and Kristin Oaks, are 1992 Heritage College graduates who met as partners in the medical school’s anatomy lab.
For Oaks, the EAP streamlined her progress along a route she had known for some time she wanted to follow. By the time she started high school, “I was already pretty confident that I wanted to be a doctor,” she said. “And Ohio University was on my list (of possible medical schools) because of my parents’ being legacies, and since I had decided to go there for the honors tutorial college in undergrad.”
Oaks’ mother, Kristin L. Oaks, D.O., is a family medicine physician in Worthington. She agreed that the program was an excellent fit for her daughter, whom she described as highly motivated academically. “For Rosie, obviously, it’s allowed her to condense her schooling,” Dr. Oaks said – noting that this is no small consideration given the expense of medical school. “She already knew what she wanted to do, and this allowed her to move ahead. She’s always been someone who’s been really diligent about school, so this was perfect for her.”
She added that Rosemary’s younger brother, one of five Oaks siblings, has also entered the EAP as an undergraduate at OHIO.
Like Oaks, Mehlman, from Bellaire in Belmont County, is a legacy student, whose uncle Charles Mehlman, D.O., graduated in 1989. Also like Oaks, she has had her sights on medical school for years.
“As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to practice medicine,” she said. When she first learned of the EAP shortly after applying to OHIO, Mehlman recalled, “I was really enticed by the idea of not having to take an MCAT, but also, the opportunity to possibly shave one year off the overall duration of my school career. And when I got on campus and saw Athens, and I toured the medical school, I just kind of fell in love.”
Katz, who is from Columbus, didn’t start thinking about medical school until his undergrad years; the Baldwin-Wallace EAP helped confirm his choice of the Heritage College. “It kind of seemed like a perfect fit,” he said. “I definitely have an interest in primary care medicine, and I had known for a while that my end goal was OU.”
The EAP helped the three to ramp up for medical school coursework, which they started in early July.
“Throughout my undergraduate years, the communication and the help that the medical school gave me was astounding,” Mehlman said. “It just really felt like a family.”
“I can’t speak enough good things about it,” Katz said, adding that BW’s requirement that EAP students major in public health gave him an excellent grounding in the holistic, preventative approach of osteopathic medicine. “It gives you a pure primary care foundation; your understanding of medicine is enhanced because you get that public health background; and clinically, you get to learn through case studies,” he explained. “You learn to think like a doctor, even before you get a white coat on.”
Oaks called the exposure to clinical settings a great help. “Every semester we got the opportunity to observe physicians in the workplace, and that was valuable, just because we got to see hands-on how it looks to be a physician,” she said.
The EAP partnerships, like the launching of new Heritage College campuses in Dublin and Cleveland, are meant to feed the pipeline of primary care physicians for Ohio. And while none of the EAP students had decided on a field of practice after less than a month of study, all said they were open to the idea of working in a primary care specialty.
Katz said whatever field he chooses, “one of my biggest emphases as a doctor would be to have an extended relationship with my patients. Primary care is the best way to do that, so it’s high on the list.”