Over the course of just 12 years, the College of Osteopathic Medicine at William Carey University has grown into the largest medical school in the state.
Founded in 2010, the WCU College of Osteopathic Medicine had a maximum enrollment of 100 until 2019. That’s when Dr. Italo Subbarao, dean of WCUCOM, decided to work towards expanding the program.
“We were seeing a high percentage of students going into primary care. We saw that a high percentage were going into rural areas to practice. We saw that a high percentage were going into underserved areas,” Subbarao explained. “That prompted us to say, ‘Well, we’re going something good, and we’ve got something that works, so why not expand upon that?’”
Expand they did. By the 2020 academic year, WCUCOM had been accredited for a class size of 150 amid the crux of the COVID-19 pandemic and a nationwide need for primary care physicians. In 2021, the school was able to increase its number of first-year students to 175 before finally surpassing the 200-student threshold in 2022.
“We admitted 206 students into this year’s class,” Subbarao said. “We’re very excited about what this might mean for Mississippi in the future in terms of dealing with the access of care.”
Even though William Carey’s total enrollment of 800 medical students now trumps that of the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, Subbarao believes it’s not a competition of who can have more students. Rather, the increased enrollment in Hattiesburg allows the state’s only two medical schools to further complement each other.
“UMMC does a phenomenal job. They provide some very high-tier specialty care,” Subbarao said. “With a medical school (like UMMC) that has all these amazing resources and things, what happens when you train in an environment like that, your natural desire is to become a specialist, because essentially, you’re being trained by specialists. And we need that as well in this state, but we also need primary care doctors.”
“So, we are a powerful complement to what UMMC is doing in Jackson, and really our complement and really our focus is on primary care – primarily.”
Earlier this year, WCUCOM was recognized by U.S. News and World Report for having the fourth-highest percentage of graduates practicing primary care, in comparison to UMMC’s No. 55 ranking for most graduates practicing in primary care fields.
WCUCOM was also ranked No. 1 nationwide in producing the highest percentage of graduates serving in rural areas, as well as No. 4 in most graduates practicing in medically underserved areas.
With statistics like that, Subbarao isn’t ruling out another expansion in the future.
“The way I look at it is we’re going to assess it, but I think we have to do it right. Doing it right means we want to continue with these positive outcomes,” he said.
The new school year at William Carey’s College of Osteopathic Medicine officially began on August 4. To learn more, visit www.wmcarey.edu.
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