Millsaps College receives Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant to redesign science curriculum

Millsaps College has received a $1.4 million grant from the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute to redesign its science curriculum. The new curriculum is aimed at expanding the number of students interested in pre-medical education and deepening scientific training for all students.

The Howard Hughes Institute is a non-profit organization that ranks as one of the nation's largest philanthropies and plays a powerful role in advancing biomedical research and science education in the United States. Millsaps was selected from a nationwide pool of 187 schools as one of 47 colleges to receive an award based on the strength of its record in science education and the proposed initiative. This grant builds on the college's stellar community of teacher-scholars, state-of-the-art laboratories and research oriented approach to the teaching of science.

S. Keith Dunn, senior vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college, remarked, "The Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant will help Millsaps expand its longstanding leadership role in educating future physicians and healthcare providers. Our enhanced curriculum will allow us to play a central role in addressing Mississippi's critical need for more and better trained physicians. The HHMI grant will also increase science literacy for all Millsaps students."

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Mississippi's physician population percentage is among the lowest in the nation. Mississippi has 18.2 physicians per 10,000 people compared to a national rate of 27.7 physicians per 10,000 people.

Timothy J. Ward, associate dean for sciences and professor of chemistry at Millsaps, explained, "Our interdisciplinary classes will teach undergraduates how to apply knowledge from one science discipline to another, which is essential for a successful medical career. We will be educating future physicians so they will be able to think from a number of perspectives and treat patients holistically."

In 2009, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute released "Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians," developed by a committee of scientists, physicians and science educators. The report is a clarion call to undergraduate institutions to redesign premedical requirements that have remained largely unchanged for decades and do not reflect 21st century competencies that entering medical students must have mastered. Millsaps is answering that call. "In fact, we are the only college in the state to receive funding to develop and implement this new curriculum based on the latest and best practices in science education," Ward said.

The grant will also fund opportunities for Millsaps students to present research findings through the Mississippi Academy of Sciences as well as regional and national scientific organizations. These experiences will not only provide rich opportunities for students but will disseminate information about this model program and its outcomes to other institutions.

An advisory board including faculty and administrators from the University of Mississippi Medical Center has been created to further support the enhancement of Millsaps' pre-medical education program. The UMMC Advisory Board will assist the college in developing the curriculum and assessing the program. Steven T. Case, associate dean for medical school admissions at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said, "This unique partnership with Millsaps will provide a seamless pipeline for professional training of students studying to be physicians and other healthcare professionals."

Partnerships with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and UMMC support the college's new strategic plan, "Across the Street and Around Globe: Partnerships and Influence at Millsaps College." One of the key pieces of the strategic plan is a new and distinctive educational and leadership program that leverages Millsaps' location in the capital city of Mississippi and in the communities it touches around the world. Dunn explained, "The program is designed to expand the reach of our classrooms - embracing opportunities in our neighborhood to ensure that students graduate with real-world skills and experiences that will be an advantage to them in their careers and in their future contributions to their communities."

Millsaps President Robert W. Pearigen said, "At Millsaps, we not only want to attract great students, we want to change how students think in ways that will make them transformative leaders in their chosen fields and in solving complex problems of the 21st century. This highly competitive award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is evidence that our programs and faculty are superb. It will help us expand the number of students interested in the advanced study of science, and it comes at a strategic moment in Mississippi history as plans to unite the medical, higher education and corporate communities around promoting Jackson as a regional healthcare destination gain increased attention."


Millsaps College


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
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