Gannon University and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM) are collaborating again to create another opportunity for health science majors, this time extending their partnership to pre-dental students.
Now, pre-dental majors are part of the Early Acceptance Program (EAP), which allows students to enter Gannon as freshmen with a spot at LECOM waiting for them when they graduate.
Officials from both schools established the agreement last month during a ceremony at the LECOM Erie campus.
Before this announcement, the contract between the two schools was solely for pre-med and pre-pharmacy students. The partnership encouraged students to pursue a career in health science, without the added stress of finding and getting accepted into another college after graduating from Gannon.
Under the 4+4 agreement for LECOM’s School of Dental Medicine, students attend Gannon University for four years and graduate with a bachelor of science degree in biology or chemistry. After earning their bachelor’s degrees and scoring well on the Dental Admission Test, students will then attend the LECOM campus in Bradenton, Fla., for four years.
The Bradenton campus’ school of dental medicine received “initial accreditation” in February and opened for fall classes with 100 students.
The program will then grow to 400 students by 2015 with all four class standings filled.
Dental students will graduate from LECOM with a doctorate of dental medicine (D.M.D.).
LECOM President John M. Ferretti, D.O., an alumnus of Gannon, said Gannon provides an exceptional pre-health career education.
“We have seen that Gannon graduates are well-prepared for the rigors of medical education,” Ferretti said.
Dana Hyde attended her first three years at Gannon and now is a first-year student at Case Western Reserve University’s School of Dental Medicine. She agreed that this agreement benefits LECOM by gathering students who have demonstrated their aptitude through their success at Gannon.
“Gannon is such a strong school it can only help LECOM,” Hyde said.
“LECOM’s receiving great students who will be even better doctors because they started their school careers at Gannon,”
When arriving at Bradenton, the pre-dental students will begin in small-group classes alongside medical students and then progress to assisting local dentists in clinical work either in Bradenton or in Erie.
Robert Hirsch, DDS, dean of the School of Dental Medicine in Bradenton, said LECOM will provide these students with a “unique inter-professional education experience.”
Last fall, as Gannon’s director of Pre-Professional Programs, Sarah Ewing, Ph.D., proposed the addition of this program for current and new students. After approval by the university, the program was open for enrollment in fall 2012 at Gannon.
There are many benefits to this program, Ewing said. Students won’t have to worry about applying to other dental schools.
It’s also cheaper because students will not have to pay any application fees.
Hyde said she had concerns about the agreement; in a way it can limit the freedom pre-dental students exert when deciding where to earn their doctorates.
She acknowledged that that autonomy vs. graduate program security is inclined to one’s personal preference, as it’s reassuring to “have a backup.” But to Hyde, it’s still important for students to learn more about their institutions before immediately signing up for them.
“It’s all about the fit of professional schools,” Hyde said. “I wanted to look around at different schools just to see what they were like. An automatic acceptance program doesn’t do that.
“It’s important to look around and know your options instead of having tunnel vision for one school.”
The agreement will have an impact on both schools over the coming years. Ewing said the basic knowledge students learn at Gannon will help them adjust to the program at LECOM, and that makes them “valuable.”
“This helps to ensure student preparation prior to matriculation into dental school and can ease the transition faced when entering the professional phase of their education,” Ewing said.
Hyde graduated from Gannon with only one other classmate.
If anything, this agreement should bring more students to Gannon looking for a start in pre-dentistry, she said.