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UMMC enrollment strong as campus construction surges

Published on Monday, September 12, 2016

By: Ruth Cummins .

Published in News Stories on September 12, 2016

Student enrollment at the University of Mississippi Medical Center remains nearly level this fall from last year- but it's a very full house, nevertheless

“We are near or at capacity in all of our programs, with the exception of some of our online offerings,” said Dr. Ralph Didlake, the Medical Center's associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. “We do expect continued growth.”

For the five schools on the UMMC campus, official numbers show combined enrollment is 2,990, down from 3,011 in fall 2015, a difference of 21 students. Areas enjoying growth include the School of Medicine, from 563 students to 577; the Medical Center's residency and fellowship programs, from 626 to 640; and the School of Dentistry, from 143 to 148.

“UMMC has expanded GME (graduate medical education) training in a number of ways to meet the health care needs of the citizens of Mississippi,” said Dr. Rick Barr, the Suzan B. Thames professor and chair of pediatrics and associate dean of graduate medical education. “It is right in line with our core mission of training more physicians for the state.”

School of Medicine classes stay packed, including this session in the upper amphitheater.
School of Medicine classes stay packed, including this session in the upper amphitheater.

The Medical Center's robust enrollment is in good company with total student numbers for the University of Mississippi. Enrollment at the state's flagship university hit 24,250 across all campuses, largest in the state, according to preliminary data. The freshman class of 3,982 students posted an average ACT score of 25.2, surpassing the UM record of 24.7, set last year.

It's the University of Mississippi's 22nd consecutive year of rising enrollment and its largest and most academically qualified freshman class ever. Fall numbers are up by 412 students, or 1.7 percent, from last fall.

"Students and families across the state and nation are noticing that great things are happening here at the University of Mississippi," Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. "They recognize the academic excellence and outstanding college experience we offer and continue to join us in record numbers.

"Our faculty and staff work very hard to deliver the very best academic programs at a competitive price, providing all qualified Mississippi students the educational opportunities to transform their lives and our communities. It's gratifying to see those efforts acknowledged by a growing Ole Miss family."

School of Medicine growth will further accelerate with the new 151,000-square-foot, $74 million School of Medicine building to open in fall 2017, Didlake said. The new building “is not only going to allow the School of Medicine enrollment to increase, but it will decrease pressure on other teaching space, allowing our other programs to grow.”

The Schools of Medicine and Dentistry accept only Mississippi students, and most programs in the School of Health Related Professions and the School of Nursing accept only Mississippi residents. Only the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences opens admissions fully to non-Mississippi residents.

School of Dentistry students Molly Edmondson and Jennybeth Hendrick work on denture forms in a crowded laboratory.
School of Dentistry students Molly Edmondson and Jennybeth Hendrick work on denture forms in a crowded laboratory.

That puts at 84.75 percent the number of in-state students at the six schools at UMMC. The remaining 15.25 percent are from outside Mississippi. Overall for UMMC and UM, 59.4 percent of students are in state and 40.6 percent are out of state.

Just as UM in Oxford attracts students from around the nation and world, schools at UMMC also have rich cultural diversity. In the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences alone, 11 countries are represented.

Enrollment will rise even further through the addition of a new School of Population Health, the seventh school on campus. It will open to students in fall 2017. “We also have new programs in other schools that are in development,” Didlake said.

As the number of residents and fellows rise, the pool of new physicians choosing to stay in state increases, Barr said.

“A lot of focus across the nation has been on expanding medical schools and starting new medical schools, while GME slots have not expanded at the same rate,” Barr said. “UMMC has been trying to meet this demand as well."

He notes that about 50 percent of medical school graduates stay in their community, but that percentage increases to 70 if the student completes both medical school and residency in the same location.

“Mississippi desperately needs more physicians of all types, and especially primary care physicians,” Barr said. “By expanding residencies and fellowships we hope to supply the state with more physicians.”