Two May 2015 WKU graduates will begin MD/PhD programs this fall

Among 28 former WKU students who will begin medical school this fall, May 2015 graduates Hannah Pennington and Brandon Farmer will begin extremely competitive MD/PhD programs.

Pennington, a Biology and Chemistry double major and Mathematics minor from Union, was accepted at multiple MD/PhD programs, but elected the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Farmer, a Biology and Chemistry double major and Spanish minor from Lexington, also was accepted at multiple MD/PhD programs and will attend the University of Kentucky this fall.

While WKU averages about 30 students entering medical school each year and more than 100 accepted into doctoral health professions (dental, medical, pharmacy, veterinary, optometry and physical therapy), this marks the first year that two WKU graduates will continue their education in MD/PhD programs, according to Dr. Ken Crawford, Associate Dean of Ogden College of Science and Engineering and Director of the Health Professions Advising Center.

“This is an extraordinary achievement for WKU,” Dr. Crawford said. “It is reflective of the outstanding students attracted by the Gatton Academy and the Honors College as well as to the exceptional research opportunities available in Ogden College and to the mentorship of its faculty.”

Pennington completed an Honors thesis on mathematical modeling of wound healing with Dr. Richard Schugart of the Mathematics Department. Her thesis was selected as the Honors College CE/T of the Year for 2015.

Farmer, a Summa Cum Laude and Honors College graduate, hopes to pursue research in ophthalmology, continuing the research he did with Dr. Ken Crawford in the Biology Department. His Honors thesis studied the intracellular mechanisms of Endothelin-1 induced cell proliferation.

MSTP slots are fully funded by the National Institutes of Health, which means that the student attends medical school tuition free ($35,000 to $70,000 a year depending on the school) and receives an annual stipend of approximately $30,000. Admission to MSTPs is the most competitive of all graduate medical education programs in the country, with only 170 NIH-funded positions available nationwide each year for a total of 1,813 applicants (a 9.4 percent acceptance rate).

MSTPs strive to produce physician scientists that are uniquely trained to take the challenges of disease and patient treatment to the laboratory, and to take biomedical discoveries from the laboratory to the bedside. Generally, MD/PhD students complete their first two years of medical school, take three-four years to earn a PhD and then complete the final two years of medical school. They then must complete a three-year residency program in order to practice medicine. Most MD/PhDs are employed at major teaching hospitals/medical schools where they conduct research, see patients and teach medical students/residents.

Last year, WKU graduate Sarah Schrader turned down an offer from Washington University to attend a MSTP program at Cornell Medical School/ Rockefeller University in New York City.

Contact: Ken Crawford, (270) 745-4449


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Posted with permission from WKU News