Increase in enrollment is big win for Hattiesburg

By BETH BUNCH,

The expansion of enrollment at William Cary University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine over the next four years is a win for both Hattiesburg and the state. Dr. Italo Subbarao, dean of the WCU College of Osteopathic Medicine, announced Monday that the school will increase its enrollment by 100 percent during the next four years.

Currently the medical school accepts 100 students each year. The size of the incoming class will grow to 150 during the 2020-21 academic year, 175 in 2021-22 and 200 in 2022-23. According to Subbarao, the effect of this change will be to increase total enrollment from 400 students to 800 students.

“The College of Osteopathic Medicine has been a remarkable success, and this increase in class size will allow us to prepare even more physicians,” said WCU President Dr. Tommy King. “I am so grateful to the medical school’s past and present leadership, as well as the faculty and staff for their hard work.”

WCU received formal authorization for the change from the American Osteopathic Association’s Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation on Sept. 4. The COCA is the agency that governs accreditation of all osteopathic medical schools in the United States.

“When the WCU School of Osteopathic Medicine was founded, we made a promise,” Subbarao said. “It was a promise to graduate primary care physicians and have them practice in Mississippi, which ranks in the bottom of the country for access to care.”

The state has 59 physicians for every 100,000 residents, while the national average is 82. For the last three years, WCU has placed 78 percent of its graduates into primary care residency programs. In doing so, we have become a strategic repository and resource for the state – working with the Office of Mississippi Physician Workforce, Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program and Mississippi Osteopathic Medical Association.

“With the growth of new WCU programs in the Delta, where the need is greatest, we’re receiving calls from hospitals asking for more William Carey students,” Subbarao said. “The increase in our class size will help us become the robust pipeline these heath care providers require.”

Subbarao noted that the College of Osteopathic Medicine would be able to handle the additional enrollment because they would be gaining access to three additional buildings totaling 35,000 square feet of academic facility space.

“We are able to do this and are blessed to do this because President King has committed to a new building for the College of Health Sciences,” Subbarao said. “These buildings we will gain access to are newly renovated, clinically designed and IT hardwired and are adjacent to College of Osteopathic Medicine so it will make a seamless transition and create a new 21st-century osteopathic medicine complex in the Gulf South.”

He noted that there will be additional classrooms and laboratory space as well as small group space, study space and a student lounge.

At the end of the announcement the university president said he needed to add a very important statement.

“We don’t have the money to build a College of Health Sciences building,” he said. “We need money, so please help us with that.”

Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker, city council members and other Hattiesburg civic leaders were in attendance for the announcement.

“It’s an exciting day the city of Hattiesburg and for the state of Mississippi,” Barker said. “Anytime you can double a med school’s capacity and not only make it the largest in Mississippi but also increase the amount of physicians who are coming out, many who will end up practicing in Mississippi in rural areas, that’s a good day.

“As mayor, whenever you can add 400 new students who are going to be doctors to your population that’s a really good day.”

Barker called WCU a great partner and said the city wants to collaborate on projects that help the Carey neighborhood a success.

“We want to see them succeed and anytime we can help promote the med school for what it brings to our community, we’re going to do that,” Barker said. “This brings another layer of higher education that we did not have. We have great nursing schools at William Carey, Southern Miss and PRCC, and when you bring a med school into the area, these are people who are educated and re going to make a pretty good income when they get out. You know they are going to be part of the community and usually if they get a residency in their community they are going to stay there after residency, so anytime we can grow the next generation of Hattiesburgers, who are educated, self-sufficient and part of their community, that says a lot about the community’s future.”

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