Carle Illinois College of Medicine offers unique curriculum to first class of students

By Therese Pokorney , Staff Writer

On July 2, a few selected students began their journeys fusing medicine with engineering at the world’s first engineering-based medical school.

The Carle Illinois College of Medicine, a collaboration between the Carle Health System and the University, opened its doors to 32 students.

“These students are highly motivated, with off-the-charts criteria,” said Rashid Bashir, the executive associate dean.

With an applicant pool of over 1,100 students, Bashir said the college looked for students who demonstrated qualities of compassion, competence, curiosity and creativity. Each student will also receive privately funded four-year tuition scholarships, valued over $200,000 each.

The college has only been open for a week, but the admissions process for next year’s class has already begun. Bashir said the college will enroll another class of 32 students next year, 40 the following year and 60 the year after that. However, this year will have the only class with fully paid scholarships.

“Our goal is to produce physician innovators that are really committed to making the health care system accessible to citizens all over the world,” Bashir said. “These students not only have excellent academic records, but excellent life experiences that make them ideal. We have the highest set of competence prerequisites than any other medical school.”

In addition to the standard science and biology courses most medical schools require, the Carle Illinois College of Medicine offers some flexibility for students. The unique engineering-focused curriculum includes high-level mathematics, computer science classes and several humanities classes.

Ruby Mendenhall, assistant dean for diversity and democratization of health innovation, said the college’s remarkable commitment to involve humanities in the medical curriculum is what makes the school unlike any other.

“One of the pillars of the medical school is the humanities curriculum,” Mendenhall said. “There is a compassionate component to understanding how tech context, social environments and history plays a role in the students’ health and wellness. It’s a very interdisciplinary college.”

The abundance of options allow students to integrate their own interests into their studies, but the courses aren’t the only diverse feature of the program. Of the 32 students, half are women, 10 are international, 13 hold graduate degrees and each student speaks an average of three languages.

“Our goal is to create an environment that all students will thrive in,” Mendenhall said. “We make sure that it’s their passion and create a resourceful ecosystem for them. We recognize students may go to a variety of careers, so we’re offering a lot for the future physicians.”

Mendenhall said the college is striving to be an example of a medical school that offers an excellent education for outstanding individuals with a passion for learning.

“We are carefully and deliberately thinking about how the school touches a wide variety of people, from urban to rural to international areas,” she said. “We want to get the word out that this school is a space of democratized medicine.”

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