The road to full accreditation for Central Michigan University's College of Medicine was built on a vision to reach the rural and urban medically underserved communities of Michigan and beyond.
CMED's students have helped pave that road, seizing opportunities to shape and be shaped by the new medical college and by a commitment to addressing the state's growing shortage of physicians.
Below, students and recent graduates share their thoughts about their experience with CMU's College of Medicine.
Dr. Nick Cozzi, '18, from Chicago, Illinois, graduated last month with the college's second class and is beginning his residency in emergency medicine at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids.
"I'm incredibly grateful," Cozzi said during Match Day in March. "It's been a long journey. To just be at this moment and reflecting on the people who have helped me to get to this point, I'm very grateful and humbled for what the future brings."
Cozzi said he was drawn to the college both by its mission of working with underserved populations and by the "opportunity to be in a place where I could leave an imprint."
He helped develop new programs, including a Business in Medicine group, the Furnari scholarship and the Health Careers Pipeline Program for area high school students.
"I am proud to say that my colleagues and I in the first two graduating classes are the first wave moving toward the realization of the CMU College of Medicine's mission."
Dr. Neil Shah, '18, from Monroe, Michigan, is beginning his residency in Portland, Oregon.
His original intent, after graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in neuroscience and medical anthropology, was to teach in an underserved community in San Jose, California.
He discovered he wasn't cut out for that, but still wanted to work in underserved areas.
He decided he would be able to put a larger stamp on those communities if he went to medical school.
"I checked out CMU, read its mission statement, and it hit home with me," Shah said.
Once he arrived, he became a proponent of the college's approach to learning.
"I was passionate about the college's team-based learning approach from the beginning, because you don't deliver care alone. It's a collaboration."
While at CMU, Shah and a speech-language pathology student founded the Interprofessional Health Education Alliance student group to bridge the gap among professions and learn how to work together in a hospital setting. The members met monthly to share ideas on how integrated care would work in delivering patient-centered care, which is key to the college's mission.
He considers his placement in Portland his destiny. His goal is to practice medicine in an underserved area in Michigan and be a faculty member in a college of medicine.
Alex Power, a third-year student from Franklin, Michigan, applied to CMU because he wanted to stay in the state and liked the team-based learning approach and small classes where he would get more time with peer students and teaching faculty.
Power formed and became president of the Wilderness Medical Associates student interest group, through which he and others became Wilderness First Responders.
But he wasn't committed to family medicine until he went through the Comprehensive Community Clerkship program, which has students spending six months immersed in a medical office to experience health care within a community. Power's experience was in St. Ignace.
"That solidified what I wanted to do," he said. "That's the lifestyle, the patient population that works well for me."
He said he liked the variety of cases he was able to participate in.
Those are words that Dr. William J. Starbird loves to hear. He is a primary care physician in Marlette, Michigan, and a preceptor for the clerkship program.
Starbird participates because he is concerned about predictions of a growing shortage of family physicians in Michigan and elsewhere.
"The CMU College of Medicine's mission statement is spot on," he said. "If more physicians got involved, we wouldn't have the shortage that we anticipate.
"This is what I've wanted to see for a long time, and we are just now starting to see the fruits of our labor. CMU has positioned itself perfectly."