The new medical school's first students, many of whom will receive much of their training in Williamsport, are to arrive in the city in late October, school officials said Friday.
Commonwealth Medical College, with campus facliities in Williamsport, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, is set to greet its inaugural class during orientation at the main Lackawanna campus in August.
"This is going to be a really great location for our students," said Dr. Paul Katz, vice dean for faculty and clinical affairs, told Susquehanna Health officials and other community leaders gathered at Williamsport Hospital Friday to receive an update on the status of the medical school.
The city of Williamsport, he noted, has embraced the idea of a school that will focus on training new physicians through a curriculum that includes innovative approaches to medical training and strives to retain them for careers in the region.
Katz said the idea of having students learn at three locations was part of helping retain them in the central and northeastern region of the state.
One third of those students will spend their third and fourth years training in Williamsport under the tutelage of doctors and other health care professionals, including 101 people from the local area, who have volunteered to serve on the medical faculty.
Student recruitment efforts were heavily swayed toward finding medical students who are state residents.
"We wanted 70 percent of students to come from Pennsylvania because they would more likely stay here," he said.
Dr. Keith Shenberger, a Susquehanna Health physician and associate dean for Regional Campus Development, said the curriculum will integrate clinical aspects of learning along with an approach to care that stresses a professional and moral approach to medicine.
"To serve society is really a critical part of what we do," he said.
First-year students will actually spend three one-week sessions in Williamsport - in October and then January and March of 2010- which will include not only training, but time spent with health care and community leaders to acquaint them with the local area.
"We are charged with providing the clinical education for about 15 students per year," he said. "We want them to be welcomed and integrated into the community and the region."
All students are assigned continuity mentors from whom they will receive clinical education as well as medical families to follow them through their four years of training.
Among the reasons for launching the medical school, he noted, was to address the nation's physician shortage, particulary in rural areas, which is expected to reach 90,000 doctors by 2020.
One focus will be to encourage primary care as a specialty.
"We will have students involved with primary care physicians from the get go," he said.
An emphasis will be placed on producing students devoted to medicine as a societal mission, he added.
The college's main campus and headquarters are in downtown Scranton while construction continues nearby for a permanent site.
The college received initial financing of $45 million from Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Wilkes-Barre, with tuition costs and other funding sources providing additional support.