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School Offers Baccalaureate and Medical Degree in Six Years

November 9, 1988

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Scot Ebbinghaus knew he wanted to be a doctor when he graduated from high school in 1982, but he hoped to begin his medical education immediately rather than spend four years at a liberal arts college.

Ebbinghaus applied to University of Missouri-Kansas City’s School of Medicine, whose concentrated program turns freshmen into physicians in just six years.

″The school gave me the ideal opportunity to get right into medicine,″ he said recently. ″And I liked the idea of not having to reapply for medical school after four years in college.″

The school has been attracting students like Ebbinghaus since 1971, when Dr. E. Grey Dimond organized a program that still is considered significantly different from typical medical education.

″I felt from the beginning that the country needed a different approach to training our doctors,″ Dimond said. ″I think our program anticipated some of the problems that are being discussed today. Our results, our students, have shown this program can work.″

Today there are about 25 six-year medical schools in the United States.

Missouri-Kansas City differs from most by giving students clinical experience early - in the first week of classes - and in its so-called docent system.

Students are organized into small groups with a permanently assigned physician-teacher called a docent. Each docent is assigned 12 students and follows them throughout their educations.

Docent teams make rounds together for two months of each of the last four years. Fifth- and sixth-year students within the groups are assigned third- and fourth-year students as partners.

Ebbinghaus, a sixth-year student, has been paired with third-year student Barbara Bumberry.

″It is nice to have one central figure who can be an adviser and a role model,″ she said. ″And having Scot as a partner helps because it hasn’t been that long since he’s been in my shoes. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone closer to your age.″

Students in the program learn a way of life, not just medical facts, said Dr. Stephen Hamburger, assistant dean of the medical school and chairman of the department of medicine.

″Much of medical knowledge changes about every five years,″ he said. ″So we try to integrate the factual knowledge with a personal sense of being a good doctor, of knowing how to be a problem solver and how to best help a patient.″

In order to earn a bachelor of arts degree and a medical degree in six years, students attend classes 11 months each year and have some classes on Saturday.

″We were not trying to create a lightweight, quick school,″ Dimond said. ″The 11 months was a deliberate decision. It’s one way to get medicine into their bones. It helps them mature, rather than letting them spin off into summer ennui every year.″

In the past five years, the school has averaged about 450 applicants. It accepts 100 students every year, based on class rank, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities and interviews with a physician and a lay person.

About 82.5 percent of the students graduate, and all pass their National Board of Medical Examiners examinations, the school said.

″We have been rich with brilliant students,″ said Dimond. ″But we can’t objectively measure our success yet. We want them to become leaders among physicians. That is still down the road a little, but we think that goal will be reached.″

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