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UTHSC College of Medicine Launches 3-Year Curriculum Program For Primary Care Fields


The College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is pleased to launch an accelerated curriculum program to allow students committed to practicing in primary care fields to complete their medical education and training in three years, instead of the customary four years.

The Accelerated 3-Year MD Program was approved in late October by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which accredits educational programs at schools of medicine in the United States. The UTHSC College of Medicine is currently recruiting its first cohort of up to 10 students to begin in the fall of 2021.

The program is available to students who know they want to enter the fields of Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Medicine-Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, or Psychiatry. Accepted students will be conditionally accepted to one of these residency programs in the UTHSC system upon graduation from medical school.

The new curriculum allows the College of Medicine to help relieve the critical shortage of primary care physicians in the state, particularly in rural areas. It is hoped the program encourages graduates to remain in Tennessee to practice. The program may also make a medical degree accessible to more students by decreasing tuition costs.

“The 3-year program will hopefully attract high-caliber applicants,” said Tina Mullick Borschel, MD, MS, associate professor and clerkship director in Internal Medicine in the College of Medicine. “We are recruiting students who are committed to these primary care specialties and who desire to complete their training faster to decrease tuition costs and start their practice a year earlier.”

The 3-Year program working group includes physicians from across specialties and UTHSC campuses. In addition to Dr. Mullick Borschel, the group includes: Mukta Panda, MD, professor and assistant dean for Well-Being and Medical Student Education in the UTHSC College of Medicine in Chattanooga; Kristen Bettin, MD, MEd, FAAP, assistant professor and clerkship director of Pediatrics and assistant dean of Clinical Curriculum in the UTHSC College of Medicine; Sarah Tiggelaar, MD, FAAFP, assistant professor and associate residency program director for the Memphis Department of Family Medicine in the UTHSC College of Medicine; and Govinda Paudel, MD, assistant professor of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Cardiology in the UTHSC College of Medicine.

“From the medical school standpoint, it is advantageous, because this allows us to have a pipeline of excellent applicants who become students and then residents,” Dr. Mullick Borschel said. “We’re not mandating that they continue to work in Tennessee or the surrounding states after they graduate, but we know that people who complete residency here tend to stay as practicing physicians. Really, it is a win-win at all levels, for the students, the medical school, and the state.”

In the accelerated curriculum, the preclinical phase of classroom instruction in the first two years of medical school will be similar to the standard curriculum. Students will complete all the core clinical rotations, but fewer electives, since they will have already chosen their field of practice. This allows students to complete medical school in a shorter time, while receiving similar training to their 4-year peers.

“We are happy to welcome these outstanding applicants as students and residents and look forward to the success and growth of this program,” said Dr. Mullick Borschel. While the 3-year curriculum is starting at the Memphis campus and is limited to certain residencies, the program intends to eventually expand to other specialties and to campuses across the state.

“We are incredibly excited about this program, as it will increase the already outstanding quality of our applicant pool, reduce the burden of student debt, and grow the pool of talented primary care physicians to serve the health care needs of Tennesseans,” said Scott Strome, MD, executive dean of the UTHSC College of Medicine.