In an effort to increase the number of physicians caring for patients in mid-size and rural communities, The Ohio State University College of Medicine is partnering with Bon Secours Mercy Health to launch a new community medicine medical degree track to prepare physicians to practice medicine in less densely populated areas.

Medical students in the community medicine MD track—scheduled to start in 2024—will benefit from the innovative Lead.Serve.Inspire curriculum of the Ohio State College of Medicine and the community care expertise of Bon Secours Mercy Health. The program is the result of Healthy State Alliance, a strategic initiative between The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Mercy Health to tackle Ohio’s most critical health needs.

“The community medicine MD track provides a new option for medical student applicants who are interested in practicing medicine in a community setting,” said Dr. Carol R. Bradford, dean of the Ohio State College of Medicine. “In addition to educating medical students to provide high-quality, safe and compassionate patient care, there will be an emphasis on developing students to be engaged leaders in the communities where they serve.”

Ohio State College of Medicine will start enrolling medical students in the community medicine track in 2024. They will complete the first two years of training at The Ohio State University in Columbus and complete the remaining two years of core clinical training within Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima.

The program will also have an emphasis on students learning in an interprofessional team-based environment where they’ll learn and work alongside clinicians and students of pharmacy, nursing, therapy, social work and behavioral health. This allows students to gain a holistic perspective of the value each discipline offers to health care and how team-based collaborative care improves patient outcomes.

“Mercy Health – St. Rita’s Medical Center is proud to have provided high-quality, compassionate health care in our communities for more than a century and together with Ohio State College of Medicine, we are poised to ensure we continue this mission for the next 100 years,” said Ronda K. Lehman, president of Mercy Health – Lima. “St. Rita’s and Ohio State have worked collaboratively on a number of important health care initiatives in Lima. Now we continue this collaboration as we celebrate our joint vision of cultivating future generations of medical professionals.”

The community medicine MD track is designed to address the growing shortage of physicians practicing in smaller communities in Ohio and throughout the country.

“Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the nation was facing a significant rural health care crisis, with 20 percent of the population living in rural communities but only about 11 percent of physicians practicing there,” said Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson. “The Healthy State Alliance will help close that gap, and this initiative builds on Ohio State’s commitment to people and communities across the state. In partnership with Bon Secours Mercy Health, Ohio State will work to train the next generation of community-based physicians, building on our enduring land-grant commitment and helping to improve the overall quality of life for all Ohioans.”

The Healthy State Alliance collaboration has increased access to advanced care, close to home with the opening of Ohio State Wexner Medical Center transplant clinics at Mercy Health facilities in Lima and Cincinnati, Ohio as well as the affiliation of Mercy Health cancer centers in Lima, Springfield and Lorain, Ohio with The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute’s for cancer care.

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