Bowling Green native Caitlyn Galloway always felt right at home in a small town, but that posed a challenge when she made plans to apply for medical school. She wanted to stay close to home, but in her third year of undergraduate studies at Western Kentucky University, there were no four-year medical schools where she grew up that would allow her to stay near her small, close-knit community.

She soon found out that was about to change.

“My advisor said, ‘Well, you know there’s a new medical school campus for UK in Bowling Green,’ and I remember being riveted,” Galloway said.

The missions of training physicians in Kentucky for Kentucky and addressing the physician shortage in the Commonwealth, especially in underserved regions, required an unconventional solution. As a result, the concept of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine-Bowling Green Campus was born, and it opened in the fall of 2018 with students like Galloway in mind.  

Galloway applied and officially became a member of the inaugural class. Four years later, she has gone through Match Day and is preparing to receive her medical degree during the campus’s first graduation ceremony this spring.

This milestone marks an incredibly important step for the College of Medicine and its first four-year regional campus. With an established presence in Bowling Green, the college is poised to not only address the state’s physician shortage but also help lead the advancement of health care in western Kentucky and beyond.

An ‘Exciting Opportunity’

The UK College of Medicine was the ideal medical education institution to address Kentucky’s shortage of doctors in rural settings. The college had established a commitment to training rural physicians with its Rural Physician Leadership Program in Morehead, Kentucky.

With that successful model, leadership wanted to extend UK’s reach across the Commonwealth.

“I knew this would be an exciting opportunity to be part of the team creating the first four-year regional medical school in our state, literally from the ground up,” said Bowling Green Campus Associate Dean Todd Cheever, M.D.

Cheever had many reasons why he wanted to be part of the UK College of Medicine’s expansion. A Western Kentucky University graduate, he was familiar with the area. As a longtime faculty member at the UK College of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, he possessed a passion for medical student education. And as a former student affairs dean, he knew how to ensure holistic student success.

Creating a full-fledged regional campus was a process that took intensive planning and collaboration long before it opened. Dr. Cheever, UK Acting Provost Robert DiPaola, M.D., Acting Dean Charles Griffith, M.D., and many others played instrumental roles in building connections with community partners in western Kentucky, Med Center Health and Western Kentucky University, institutions that helped move the process forward.

They formed committees to meticulously plan every aspect of the regional campus, including faculty, students, curriculum, student affairs, admissions, facilities and more.

“It was certainly a collaborative effort that couldn’t have been done without our partners,” Griffith said. “But the result has made all of the work worth it. Our regional site in Bowling Green has the capability to make a huge impact in western Kentucky health care. Four years in, I believe we already have.”

A Campus Established in the Community

Thanks to this hard work, current students at the Bowling Green Campus benefit from a modern, state-of-the-art facility. Medical students have access to a full range of student services and activities at WKU and early clinical experiences with Med Center Health.

Students enjoy the same curriculum as the University of Kentucky’s medical campus in Lexington through a combination of interactive learning, onsite classes and virtual experiences. And the campus has recruited top faculty to provide this education, including Mohammed Kazimuddin, M.D., a prominent health care leader in Bowling Green who serves the campus as associate dean for graduate medical education.

The Bowling Green Campus also offers combined degree programs, and available residency and fellowship programs have increased since the campus’s launch.

With four years almost completed, Galloway is ready for the next step – residency. On Match Day, she learned she will advance her training at UK. She said going through medical school at a regional campus strengthens her knowledge of how to provide the best care.

“I would recommend this experience to anyone,” she said.

As the first class of the campus prepares to graduate, first-year students are benefiting from the milestones that have been completed at the campus.

First-year student Mitchell Owens said it’s helpful for his class to have three classes of students ahead of them to mentor and offer guidance. His classmate Anna Cox said the intimacy of a small campus allows students to build strong connections with esteemed faculty. Cox said in her anatomy class, students were stunned to see Kazimuddin right there in the cadaver laboratory with the students. Office staff are just a phone call or text away, and Cheever knows every student on a first-name basis.

“I feel like our voices are heard,” Cox said.

This is what Cheever dreamed of when he joined the effort to lead the development of a regional campus. With four classes, the Bowling Green Campus is no longer a new site. It is established in the community. And students are carrying on the mission.

Cheever says his favorite part of being an educator is hearing from graduates when they reach out about accomplishments in their careers. He looks forward to hearing what the inaugural class at the Bowling Green Campus achieves.

“They’re going to be part of the College of Medicine family,” he said. “That never ends.”

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