Applications to Marian medical school keep rising

In its third year, the Marian University medical school is having no trouble attracting high-quality students.

That makes the school’s dean, Dr. Paul Evans, express confidence that Marian can deliver on its mission of reducing a looming physician shortage in Indiana.

The number of applicants to Marian’s College of Osteopathic Medicine has surged by 30 percent from its first crop of students in 2013 to this year, Evans said in an interview Thursday after participating in a panel discussion at IBJ's Health Care & Benefits Power Breakfast.

Marian received 4,300 med school applications for the class of students that started this fall, and applications are up another 3 percent so far for next year's class. Before the school started up, Evans said, he expected no more than 1,800 applications each year.

“Overall I think we’re succeeding,” Evans said.

Marian is only the second medical school in Indiana. The 112-year-old Indiana University School of Medicine graduated 361 doctors this year.

When Marian starts graduating doctors in 2017, it will boost the number of doctors coming out of Indiana schools by 40 percent. And that could help to address the physician shortage that already afflicts Indiana—especially its rural areas—more than other states.

There are 200 physicians seeing patients for every 100,000 Hoosiers, according to 2012 data, the latest available from the Association of American Medical Colleges. That ranks Indiana 35th nationally—about 8 percent behind the median among states of 218 physicians per 100,000 residents.

“We need to have more doctors,” Evans said. “The baby boomers are starting to retire and people are living longer and have chronic illnesses that require medical attention for a longer period of time.”

Evans said he’s been pleased with the quality of students Marian has been able to attract.

Indeed, the college grade-point averages of students entering Marian’s medical school have risen from 3.58 in its first year to 3.62 this year. Scores on the standardized MCAT exam have gone from 26.3 (out of a perfect score of 45) to 27.5.

Marian’s students have each year arrived with higher GPAs and MCAT scores than national averages for other schools of osteopathic medicine, although they lag the characteristics typical among schools that turn out MDs, such as the IU School of Medicine.

In 2014, the most recent year for which nationwide data are available, the MCAT scores of Marian students were 27.3 versus 27.2 for all osteopathic schools. But med schools turning out MDs enrolled students with an average MCAT score of 31.4, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

College GPAs for Marian’s med students averaged 3.62 last year versus 3.53 among all osteopathic schools. But students at MD schools boasted average GPAs of 3.69.

Evans noted that MD schools often attract students interested in academic medical research, and those students often have even higher college GPAs than those interested in practicing medicine without research.

“That’s the level of these candidates,” he said. “They’re all very, very talented.”

Marian’s ratio of applicants to enrolled students is roughly the same as at the 175 medical schools nationwide, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

That’s unusual for a new school, said Evans, who before coming to Marian was the founding dean at the Georgia campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“Most startup medical schools, they have a tougher time than an existing school. Because they don’t have a reputation, they don’t have past students you can talk to,” Evans said. “But we haven’t experienced that.”

Evans attributed Marian’s success to the pent-up demand among Hoosier students, who for decades had only one hope of going to medical school in-state. Just more than half—54 percent—of Marian’s 478 currently enrolled students are Indiana residents.

He also noted that Marian’s medical school is the only osteopathic school of medicine at a Catholic university.

“So we have some things that kind of distinguish us from the rest of the schools,” he said.

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