PA students become medical building’s first inhabitants

With moving boxes still present and more work to be done on many of their labs, Campbell University’s second class of physician assistant students became the first class to officially learn within the walls of the new Leon Levine Hall of Medical Science, which will also house the first class of osteopathic medical students this fall.

Campbell administration marked the milestone with a small ceremony Monday morning before the first classes commenced. The class of 40 students were welcomed by PA program Director Tom Colletti as well as Campbell President Jerry Wallace, College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences Dean Dr. Ron Maddox and School of Osteopathic Medicine Founding Dean Dr. John Kauffman, among others.

“I could not be more proud to greet you as the first inhabitants of this facility,” said Wallace. “You’re a dream come true for us, and you’re also pioneers. You chose to enroll into a program that’s still very new.”

Campbell launched its PA program in August 2011 with a class of 34 students, all of whom made it to the Year 2 rotation phase — a phase this new batch of students will begin this fall, giving them a few months to break in the new facility before heading out to learn in hospitals and clinics throughout the state. The PA program is a 27-month venture, and Campbell’s first class is due to graduate this December.

Student Stephen Pacini, a native of Colorado, said Monday was an exciting day for him and his classmates.

“For the past 10 months, we’ve been in a 40-person classroom [in Carrie Rich Hall] with 40 people. So it was a little tight,” said Pacini, who thinks he’ll better appreciate being “first” 10 years down the road when he can look back on his time at Campbell. “For a while, we’ve had to travel to WakeMed in Raleigh to work in an ICU setting or in the sim labs, but now we have it all here. We’re happy about that.”

The new facility is like a teaching hospital of sorts, said classmate Andrew Zimmerman of Raleigh.

“Now we just have to fill it with fake patients,” he joked.

The PA students will be heading out into rotations around the same time the first class of medical students (approximately 160) and the third class of PA students start their 12-month classroom instruction stint. Come August, approximately 200 students in all will call the 96,500-square-foot facility “home” with the current batch of PA students returning periodically in between rotations.

Campbell’s goal — with an already established pharmacy school and new physical therapy and nursing programs possibly on the horizon — is for the Hall of Medical Science to become a mecca for interprofessional medicine, where students from different programs will work together toward a common goal of reaching the medically underserved in North Carolina and beyond.

“It’s very important that we work together as a team,” Maddox told the students. “Really, that’s what this building and these programs are all about — helping people. One of the things Dr. Wallace and I talked about continuously during this process is how Campbell can fulfill its mission of helping others. There’s a huge number of people out there who need our care.”

Kauffman called today an unprecedented time to enter the medical field, as experts predict a national shortage of 90,000 physicians by the year 2020. He said Campbell’s interprofessional education approach is part of paradigm shift nationally toward team medicine.

“Our medical school students will be here at the end of July,” Kauffman said, “so together, we can chart new territory.”

— By Billy Liggett