College of Science Medical School Success Rates Surpass National Average
In high school and throughout her college years, Beverly Ogden worked closely with her father, a noted surgeon. She enjoyed being in the surgical room, surrounded by the equipment and tools of the trade, but she never wanted to be the surgeon.
“When a specimen was removed in surgery, I always wondered what the diagnosis was going to be. I also spent a fair amount of time shadowing a pathologist who was a very good friend of my father’s,” said Dr. Ogden, a 1979 graduate of the microbiology program in the LSU College of Science.
After graduating from LSU, Dr. Ogden earned her MD from Tulane University’s School of Medicine, but she credits the foundational knowledge she received in the College of Science for her success in medical school and her distinguished career as a medical pathologist.
“I felt that I had an advantage over the other students in my medical school class because of the strong science background that I was given at LSU. I was used to taking laboratory practical tests, which was a big part of first year medical school training. The biochemistry class in the microbiology program at LSU was so thorough that I really didn’t have to study extensively for my biochemistry tests in medical school, which allowed me to concentrate more on anatomy and physiology,” Dr. Ogden said.
Today, Dr. Ogden is board certified in anatomic and clinical pathology. She is a practicing
pathologist with the Pathology Group
of Louisiana, director of laboratory and medical director of research at Woman’s Hospital.
Dr. Beverly Ogden is one of many successful medical professionals who began their academic careers in the LSU College of Science. As a matter of fact, more than half of the physicians in Louisiana got their start in the College of Science. Our alumni include a number or premier obstetricians, podiatrists, surgeons, pathologists, anesthesiologists, and medical researchers, in addition to successful graduates in dentistry and optometry.
“Our success is grounded in our commitment to providing our students in the pre-health program with the coursework, advising and experiential learning opportunities that prepare them to be successful in medical school and other professional health programs,” said Cynthia Peterson, dean of the LSU College of Science and Seola Arnaud and Richard Vernon Edwards Jr. Professor.
What sets the LSU College of Science apart from its peers? The formula involves a diverse mixture that includes support from committed faculty and staff, hard-working and high-achieving students, carefully crafted coursework and advising practices, and experiential learning opportunities that expose students to the realities of life as a medical professional.
Theory in Practice
In 2016, Dean Peterson and Dr. Erich Sturgis, a 1985 graduate of LSU’s biochemistry
program and professor in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery at the MD Anderson
Cancer Center, partnered to expose students to the fast-paced life of medical professionals
at MD Anderson, one of the top cancer treatment and research facilities in the world.
Dr. Sturgis approached Dr. Ed Diaz, director of the externship program, about opening
it up to LSU students. Despite being a Longhorn and father of an Aggie,
Dr. Diaz agreed.
“This experience gives LSU students a real appreciation for what academic medicine is like at a major center, a flavor of what training after medical school, like a residency or fellowship, would be like and an inside look at taking care of cancer patients and what a rewarding experience it can be,” Dr. Sturgis said.
Last summer, five students in the College of Science were selected to shadow MD Anderson physicians to gain valuable insights into medical training, care delivery and to experience oncology as an area of interest. The lucky five were Harley Bordelon, James Briscoe, Victoria Huynh, Madeline Shannon and Nicole Dominique.
The externs had an opportunity to be exposed to a variety of medical fields, but Nicole Dominique (pictured left) knew early into the externship that she wanted to focus her time at MD Anderson on anesthesiology. She spent 30 days shadowing an MD Anderson anesthesiologist. She woke up at 4:45 a.m. to get to the center by 6 a.m. She accompanied the doctor on rounds, observed surgical procedures and learned to navigate a large hospital complex.
“Being paired with an anesthesiologist, I was able to interact with other anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, physician assistants, scrub technicians, radiologists, surgeons, nurses and medical students,” Dominique said. “All of the people I interacted with were very willing to help and teach, but I think I enjoyed interacting with the other anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists along with my mentor the most.”
The anesthesiologist was Dr. Ifey Ifeanyi-Pillette, a 2004 alumnus of LSU’s biological sciences program and graduate of the University of Alabama Birmingham Medical school.
“She worked the hours I worked, she walked the halls and talked with patients. She was present in the moment,” Dr. Ifeanyi-Pillette said. “Seeing what the job entails is eye opening. The last thing you want to do is to get all of this training, get the degree and the job, and hate it.”
Dr. Ifeanyi-Pillette could have attended Tulane, Xavier or Dillard as an undergraduate,
but she wanted to go to a big school with
“There were so many students at LSU. That experience prepared me for medical school
and being competitive with my peers,”
Dr. Ifeanyi-Pillette said.
The Road to Medical School
The path to medical school is not an easy one. Students take on difficult coursework, hours upon hours of study and the medical college admission test, or MCAT.
“We start working with students as soon as they arrive to begin preparing them for the process of gaining admission,” said Robby Bowen, director of pre-health programs at LSU. “We have information sessions specifically for first-year students to give them a four-year plan of what they should focus on each year to develop into competitive applicants.”
Bowen serves as the key advisor for all LSU students pursuing pre-health careers at LSU, which include medicine, dentistry, optometry and podiatry. Bowen also chairs the university’s Premedical/Predental Review Committee, a team of faculty, advisors and health professionals that helps students navigate the application process for professional health schools. The review committee also writes letters of recommendation for students who have met the application criteria.
For Kristian Black (pictured left), 2015 biochemistry graduate at LSU, it was the chance to solve complex puzzles—both societal and medical—that drew him to the field of medicine.
“I saw deficiencies both in the community of minority physicians and the ways we combat health related issues, so I decided to make a proactive move,” Black said. “The LSU College of Science gave me one-on-one application advice that motivated me to challenge myself and push the competitive envelope.”
Today, Black is a second year medical student at the University of Michigan Medical School.
“I thank all of my professors at LSU for pushing me through biochemistry to make sure that I was thoroughly prepared for the academic hurdles I would face at the University of Michigan Medical School,” Black said.
College of Science students make up more than half of the students in LSU’s professional health programs. The students are also accepted at other prestigious medical schools throughout the nation including Baylor College of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt, University of Kentucky, Tulane and Texas A&M.
Nils Herion is taking a dual approach to the professional school experience, opting to pursue a MD and PhD at Heidelberg University Medical School, one of the oldest and most respected medical schools in Germany. Herion has been fulfilling the research requirement of his MD/PhD at the LSU Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
“I think every MD should have an appreciation and understanding of research and scientific methods, approaches and techniques. When I first started to become trained in Dr. Claudia Kappin’s laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, I not only learned techniques, but also learned a researcher’s way of thinking and approaching a problem,” Herion said.
Herion works in a developmental biology research lab at Pennington. The lab uses mouse models to investigate birth defects, in particular neural tube defects, the most prominent congenital defects affected by maternal diabetes.
“I think it is important for medical students to understand that before a new medication can appear on the market, years and years of not only clinical research, but most importantly basic science research is necessary,” Herion said. “This is one reason why I enjoy having the opportunity to work in a basic science research laboratory.”
Surpassing the Expectation
LSU has set a national standard for university pre-health programs. Like most universities, LSU does not have a pre-health “major,” but has a program of study that can be incorporated into just about any academic program. The university’s acceptance rate to medical school is proof positive of the program’s success. For the 2015-16 entering medical class, over 83 percent of LSU’s accepted medical applicants were graduates of the the College of Science. Overall, 323 LSU students applied to medical school and 54 percent were accepted, which is significantly higher than the national average of 42 percent.
Among the hundreds of students pursuing medical careers at LSU each year, a significant number are opting to apply to dental school and other professional health programs. In 2015-16, 64 LSU students applied to dental school and 58% were accepted. This rate surpasses the average national dental school acceptance rate of 37 percent. Also, more than 300 LSU students applied to allopathic medical schools, 80 applied to osteopathic medical schools and ten applied to optometry school.
The LSU College of Science’s approach to preparing students for medical careers has helped further solidify the college’s reputation for producing quality graduates who are prepared for the rigors of professional health programs. This work is vital to ensuring that there are enough trained health professionals to meet the nation’s need for quality healthcare professionals.
A physician workforce report released by the Association of American Colleges, or AAMC, notes that the United States will face a shortage of physicians over the next decade ranging between 61,700 and 94,700 with a significant shortage in surgical specialties.
AAMC President and CEO Dr. Darrell Kirch said that the projections confirms that the physician shortage is real and significant.
“The nation must begin to train more doctors now if patients are going to be able to receive the care they need when they need it in the near future,” Dr. Kirch said.
The study, conducted by the Life Science division of the global information company IHS Inc., estimates a shortfall of between 14,900 and 35,600 primary care physicians. Non-primary care specialties are expected to experience a shortfall of between 37,400 and 60,300 physicians.
The LSU College of Science is tackling this challenge head on. The support provided by college staff, the experience of its faculty and partnerships with established medical institutions and medical professionals, have provided a strong foundation for student success. The college will continue to advance its pre health program of study and prepare thousands more to be successful in a variety of medical and healthcare related fields.