Another Group of Medical Students Arrive!

by | Jul 30, 2021 | Health

Guess Who’s Coming to Town!

Dr. Drew Walters, first CUSOM student to return and start practice at NHRMC

Dr. Wink Cline – recently retired as regional dean for the CUSOM students

Each year in mid to late July about 22 plus medical students descend upon Rowan County to start a two-year stint as they end their training to be doctors. These students are part of the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine (CUSOM), which began in 2013 as the fifth medical school in North Carolina, joining Duke University, UNC Chapel Hill, East Carolina, and Wake Forest-Baptist. Medical School is a four-year program with the first two years in the classroom and labs (think cadaver lab – yep, that is dead bodies!). During the last two years, students experience clinical rotations – in hospitals and doctors’ offices, actually seeing patients under the supervision of an attending physician. Unlike the other NC medical schools which are affiliated with academic medical centers and are largely taught by residents still in training, CUSOM is a community-based program sending their medical students into various parts of North and South Carolina to carry out their clinical work in typical communities paired with practicing physicians. In other words, the real world.  For the CUSOM program, finding the right communities to send their students was quite an undertaking. There are 165 students per year, dispersed across NC in Fayetteville, Raleigh, Harnett County, Rowan County, Smithfield, Sanford, Morehead City, and Conway, SC. When CUSOM came calling on Rowan to be one of the sites for their students in 2013, hospital leadership felt it would be positive for the medical center, and the community.

The first group of students to arrive at Novant Health Rowan Medical came in 2015. Having the students come to Rowan County for two years was seen as a win-win situation. For the students, they were able to train in a high-quality medical center, have a multitude of various experiences with patients and do so under the direct tutelage of excellent physicians. Dr. Wink Cline, a Rowan County Urologist became the CUSOM Regional Dean over the students in the Rowan County cohort, which grows to 44 students over the two-year period. I spoke with Dr. Cline about his experience with the students over the past 6 years. He said that he has thoroughly enjoyed working with them but also working with the local medical staff, over 60 of whom joined the CUSOM faculty in order to teach these students. “The hallmark of the Rowan cohort has been the quality of the medical staff who have served as faculty,” said Cline. “When the students do their annual evaluations of their program, Rowan’s physicians consistently score the highest across the entire CUSOM program as excellent preceptors for the students.”

This level of excellence also shows up in the students’ scores as well. Students rotate through 20 areas over the course of the two years, which includes core rotations of Hospital Medicine, Pediatrics, Family Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Psychiatry, Rural and Underserved Health, Geriatrics, Emergency Medicine, Primary Care (physician’s office) and an additional seven “selectives” which might include orthopedics or cardiology, etc. After each of the core rotations, they take an aptitude test for that area. The students from the Rowan cohort typically score the highest of all the CUSOM students in every category. “This speaks volumes for the dedication and excellence of our medical staff,” says Cline. In addition to the rotations, the students have daily lectures from physicians and health care leaders.

The win for Rowan County was to have an infusion of 22 plus students each year, many bringing families along and staying two years. Many of the students are newcomers to our community choosing to house locally, frequenting our wonderful restaurants, shopping, and joining in on the events of our community such as the Dragon Boat Race and the Hospital Foundation Patron’s Ball. One of the motivations of the medical center is hosting the medical students was to introduce them to Rowan County with the hopes that they would return to establish their practice here once their training was complete. Rowan County has so much to offer for these students. The loft apartments in downtown Salisbury are an attractive option for many, and the new Bell Tower Green is anxiously awaited. The students are quite a diverse group and include some who graduated from our local high schools and went on to college and medical school, to others from across the nation. All are US citizens, and there is about a 50/50 male to female split, with all being under the age of 30.

Dr. Aerik Williams

Students learning

This year marks the success of the program with our first returning CUSOM student, Dr. Drew Walters Dr. Walters, originally from Concord, NC, was in the first CUSOM class to rotate to Rowan. Along with his wife Marian, they spent two years in Rowan County and fell in love with our community. Dr. Walters chose the specialty of anesthesiology and completed his residency in Lexington, Kentucky at the University of Kentucky. Upon completion, he joined Providence Anesthesia, which is the anesthesiology group providing services at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center! Dr. Walters and his wife, and now two children have recently moved to Salisbury and are delighted to be back home in Rowan County. “The warmth of this community and the way many people went out of their way to embrace the medical students and make them feel welcome made all the difference when we were deciding where to put down roots,” said Marian Walters.

After his tremendous work in getting the CUSOM program running smoothly at Rowan, Dr. Wink Cline recently retired to enjoy sailing and traveling! He is being succeeded by Dr. Aerik Williams who will serve as the Director of Medical School Education and work with the CUSOM program going forward. Dr. Williams is an allergist-immunologist with Allergy Partners of Rowan-Salisbury. According to Dr. Williams, his love for education is what spurred him to step up and fill this role. “I have always loved medical education, and really want to instill in the medical students a sense of following evidence-based medicine and the science behind that,” stated Dr. Williams. “Particularly during a pandemic, following the true science, and medical research is essential.”

Look for the medical students around town, and welcome them like we always have. Who knows, these may be your future doctors right here in Rowan County.

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About The Author

Dari Caldwell

I was born and raised on the northern end of Kannapolis, NC and after college (UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University) I lived away from North Carolina for 12 years, during which I earned a doctorate in Health Care Administration. My career has been in healthcare for over 40 years and in addition to being a Registered Nurse, I have held healthcare executive positions in Los Angeles, California, New York, Concord, Charlotte, and finally completed my career as President of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, where I retired in 2020. I live in and love Rowan County and have enjoyed immersing myself in the community on various volunteer boards such as Rowan Cabarrus Community College, Rowan Chamber of Commerce, Rowan Economic Development, Novant Hospice Advisory, Healthy Rowan, and am now Board Chair for the Rowan Board of Health. In retirement, my husband David and I have enjoyed our hobby of vegetable gardening, and visiting our children. We have two sons – Trent, who is the head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Lenoir Rhyne and is married to Brittany. They have 3 children including brand new twins! Our younger son Chris lives in Shreveport, Louisiana where he is an orthopedic surgery resident physician. We love sports, and also enjoy time at the lake, the beach, and with my 93 year old very spry mother!