Student reflects on first year in unique program

Local News

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS (WCIA) — The first year for the Carle Illinois College of Medicine is coming to an end and one student is sharing her experience.

32 people are in the inaugural class, including Yusi Gong. Gong was pursuing a career in Boston when she had a change of heart.

“I was doing engineering before and I kind of was missing the humanistic component of that, so I started working at this free clinic and the physicians there were doing a lot of different things that I was interested in,” says Gong.

It was good timing. She stumbled onto an ad for the Carle Illinois College of Medicine on Facebook. It’s a unique program combining medicine and engineering. More than 1,000 people applied to be part of the first class.

“I was really attracted to the mission. I think the future of medicine is really in innovation and moving the field forward through technology and all of that,” says Gong.

The first year has been exciting for both students and administrators.

“People here are really receptive to feedback, and they want to hear from us and that’s one of the cool things is that we get to kind of shape the future of the school,” she says.

The program is hands-on. Gong has started practicing procedures on mannequins and real-life actors who pretend to be patients.  ​​​​​

“Our curriculum is problem-based so we get a case every week and then we have to figure out what we have to learn in order to treat this patient that we’re presented with,” says Gong.

Interim Associate Dean for Student Affairs April Yasunaga says that’s going to be particularly useful when they do family medicine. They’ll get to do more than students would in almost any other program.

“A lot of times, for most medical schools, they can often be more of a shadowing experience, but this is an opportunity for them to really engage and take a lot of ownership, that I think is particularly unique,” says Yasunaga.

Perhaps the most unique? The engineering aspect.

“The engineering is kind of integrated into our curriculum, so it’s not specific engineering classes where you’re taking physics class or you’re taking math or science classes. But as we’re learning about a technology that’s being used in the field that clinicians are using, also learning about how that technology works,” says Gong.

For example, students were studying MRI imaging during a neuroscience lesson, so they took a deep dive into what an MRI machines does. They also learned how researchers are working on ways to make it better. Students also participate in an engineering innovation class once a week. They talk through issues they see in their classroom clinic and propose their own solutions.

“I think it helps to develop these problem-solving skills that allows them to then interview and have an engagement with the patient and then be able to process all of that and come up with a good treatment plan,” says Yasanuga.

More than 2,300 people have applied to be part of next year’s class. The school is only accepting 32. Class starts in July.

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