Imagine being accepted into medical school as a high school senior and that you’ll graduate debt-free.
Sound too good to be true?
With philanthropic support, this educational pathway could be in the not-so-distant future for students interested in medicine, thanks to the B/MD Pathway program at Ball State University (BSU). This highly competitive program guarantees incoming BSU freshmen admission to Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) in Muncie upon completing their bachelor's degree. Hence the name B/MD — meaning bachelor’s degree to medical degree.
Since the program’s launch in 2020, philanthropy—including support IU Health Foundation donors—has helped B/MD expand its reach and recruit more students, who are currently undergraduates. But Derron Bishop, associate dean, IUSM-Muncie and B/MD program manager, hopes future donor support will be made available to fund scholarships for B/MD students.
“My long-term goal is to guarantee these kids that they’ll leave medical school with little or no educational debt,” he said. “And I want to explore how we can get them out the med school door sooner.”
For students hesitant about exploring careers in medicine because of its steep price tag, B/MD could be a pathway for more Hoosiers to become physicians without having to take on hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt.
In fact, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the average medical school debt among students attending a public school in 2021 was $194,280. Seventy-four percent of medical students at a public college said they had education debt, and 14% of medical students attending a public school said they had at least $300,000 in average medical school debt and premedical debt combined.
“It’s expensive,” said Bishop. “But who can really put a price on the gift of education? Providing that gift is the ultimate form of philanthropy.”
A gift to B/MD may seem like it’s only supporting college students, but Bishop assures prospective donors that it is actually an investment in the future of healthcare, especially at IU Health hospitals in east-central Indiana, which is a major priority for B/MD.
“That really is the main reason we developed the program,” said Bishop. “I know that if I can get a somewhat local person, and we can train them here, their odds of staying in the community are substantially above average.”
One of those recruits is Sydney Cook, a Ball State sophomore from Yorktown, Ind, who is a B/MD student studying pre-medical preparation and biology.
“B/MD was made for me,” Cook said. “Because I grew up near Muncie, this program lets me go to Ball State and be immersed in medical school, all right in my own backyard.”
Now, Cook’s backyard has expanded to include not only BSU, but IUSM-Muncie and IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, all of which are within walking distance to one another.
“IUSM-Muncie lives on IU Health Ball’s medical campus, and BSU is literally across the street,” said Bishop. “There's this natural synergy that we have just from the geography of being close by.”
That proximity perk is something Cook and her fellow students have already taken advantage of, as it enables them to attend medical school lectures from time to time, brush shoulders with BSU, IUSM and IU Health leaders, meet current medical students, explore research opportunities and get hands on experience in the clinical setting.
To guarantee that medical school seat, Cook has to keep at least a 3.5 GPA, graduate with her BS and pass the MCAT. Once she does though, she’ll have a major advantage over other incoming medical students at IUSM-Muncie. Her experience in B/MD will have already introduced her to the coursework, the IU Health physicians in the community, the IUSM faculty and the campus.
“It’s almost like the fifth year of school instead of the first year of medical school,” said Bishop. “It’s a continuation of everything they’ve been working towards in B/MD.”
And what Cook is working towards is a career as a doctor in her hometown.
“I want to help grow the physician population in Muncie, and I want to be part of the reason Muncie becomes a healthier and stronger community,” she said. “I’m going to be part of the next generation of doctors in east-central Indiana, and hopefully, IU Health.”
If you’d like to support workforce and education development initiatives like B/MD in east-central Indiana, contact IU Health Foundation Philanthropy Director Brad Edmondson at 765.747.3420.