Many medical students are understandably eager to get out of the classroom and begin treating patients.
The classroom work, the studying, are necessary for getting through medical school.
But many students, perhaps, don't begin to feel like doctors until they've had a taste of clinical work.
Dr. Kenneth Durrwachter, left, goes over medical records with a patient as first year TCMC student Rahul Goel, of Pittsburgh, center, and third year student Christopher Decker, of Williamsport, look on at Durrwachter’s office. The doctor is the preceptor, or working teacher, for both students.
Commonwealth Medical College students Chris Decker and Rahul Goel can attest to that.
As a third-year student, Decker has begun to get a feel for "real medicine."
He's mostly out of the classroom now, learning to treat patients, getting an idea of what it's like to be a doctor.
It's been five years since The Commonwealth Medical College began. Below are a few key details about the school:
Year started: 2008
Year of first graduating class: 2013
Number of students in 2017
graduating class: 101
Regional campuses: Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Williamsport
Number of clinical faculty
members: More than 900
Number of participating hospitals and health care facilities:
More than 25
As a first-year student, Goel mostly is hitting the books.
Most recently, however, he was given a chance to shadow a physician. It was in that setting that the Sun-Gazette caught up with both Decker and Goel during the college's Community Week this past week.
"It's nice to get out of the classroom," he said.
Goel, a Pittsburgh resident and son of a physician, isn't quite sure what route he'll take once he earns his medical degree.
"I think it's too early to make a decision," he said.
Like all students, he's been assigned to a family with health concerns, an experience that will
allow him to take part in deciding their medical needs and to learn how they navigate their health care.
"We can see how they feel through their eyes," he said. "It's a very personal experience."
Dr. Kenneth Durrwachter, a Susquehanna Health family medicine physician, is among a number of physicians who serve as preceptors to the school's students, instructing them and giving them a chance to see medicine close up. Overall, there are more than 900 volunteer clinical faculty personnel serving the medical college.
The college offers what's known as a community-based model of medical education at regional campuses in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport.
Students in their first two years spend three, one-week rotations in the region to gain clinical experience. They also work with local health agencies and participate in community service projects to enhance the health of citizens.
Third- and fourth-year students live and work at a regional campus full time.
Decker has embraced being in his hometown studying medicine.
A graduate of Williamsport Area High School and the University of Pittsburgh, Decker likes the way the school's curriculum is set up to help the student.
"The school is student-centered," he said. "They make you feel welcome. We always have a support system."
The small class sizes help.
But working with a preceptor is invaluable.
"There's a lot of preceptors here. The one-one-one time you spend with a preceptor is great," Decker said.
Durrwachter said it's rewarding for him to play some part in helping them become doctors.
He said he's able to adjust his own schedule to make time for students.
"It doesn't bog me down," he said.
And, he said, the patients are very receptive to having students on hand for diagnosis and followup care.
The students, he said, both learn and grow while in school and especially through working with patients.
The medical school is among the first to offer the Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship, a model under which students are given a chance to follow patients over the course of a year. They live in the community and train with preceptors in family medicine, internal medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, general surgery and obstetrics/gynecology.
"I think the school does a good job of allowing you to assimilate," Goel said.
Susquehanna Health is one of a number of health systems in the region that partner with the medical school.
Durrwachter noted that over time, his students will carve out their own niches as doctors.
"Having them in here makes me feel younger," said Durrwachter. "It kind of reminds me why I'm doing what I'm doing."
The college draws students from a 16-county region and throughout the nation interested in studying evidence- and community-based medicine and who have a strong desire to serve their communities.
The college was established to provide more physicians and improved health care resources for northeast and northcentral Pennsylvania, with the goal of creating a unique medical education experience that focused on caring for people in their lives and community, according to officials.