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East Central University's tradition continues for having high percentages of its pre-med graduates accepted into medical schools. Four former students are in their first year at the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, part of the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Science in Tulsa, and one, Caleb Wingo, is in his first year at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine.

Rachael Pattison of Holdenville, Charles (Chuck) Jantzen of Ada, Lori Peters Ott of McAlester and Elizabeth Hall of Ada are among the 92 first-year OSU medical students selected out of more than 1,800 applicants.

Compared to other state schools, ECU has the second highest percentage of first-year students this year at OSU-COM.

The ECU alums are in four-year programs which include two years of school and two years of rotations, followed by an additional three years, depending on what field they decide to pursue. Each semester gets more clinically oriented and the third and fourth years are all clinical.

Charity Holder (counterclockwise, from left), Rachel Pattison, Lori Ott, Elizabeth Hall and Chuck Jantzen, all alumni of East Central University, pose in their white coats as medical students at the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa.
Charity Holder (counterclockwise, from left), Rachel Pattison, Lori Ott, Elizabeth Hall and Chuck Jantzen, all alumni of East Central University, pose in their white coats as medical students at the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa.

ECU alum Charity Holder of Coalgate is in her second year at OSU-COM and T.S. Ahrend of Ada and Ray Ward of Kiowa are third-year students. Matt Wiley of Ada is in his fourth year.

"We do everything we can to prepare students for admission to medical school," said Dr. Nick Cheper, chair of ECU's Biology Department.

ECU faculty meet with the OSU medical faculty and attend various campus events in Tulsa. Cheper said OSU works with ECU's faculty to help make better students in order to make them better applicants.

"The OSU people recognize that we have good students," Cheper said. "They see ECU on a letter of recommendation from an ECU faculty member and know that indicates (the applicant is) a good student."

What do first-year medical students do?

"Study, study, study," Pattison said.

The first year includes such courses as gross and developmental anatomy, which includes a cadaver lab, diagnostic imaging, histology, osteopathic manipulation, biochemistry, neuroanatomy, physiology, microbiology, immunology, clinical epidemiology and clinical skills.

"Building a working knowledge of the body and how it develops is the foundation of medicine," Jantzen said.

"Much of the first year is like undergraduate training but the level at which the material is presented is higher and way faster," he said. "Topics we covered in four or five lectures in undergrad we will cover in one hour of lecture here and go into more detail."

Jantzen, who was majoring in both chemistry and biology at ECU, was admitted to OSU-COM without even graduating from ECU.

"You can get into the school (OSU-COM) with 90 hours of undergraduate credits with the appropriate pre-requisites," he said. "Very few get in without a bachelor's degree but I was lucky enough to get in early. If I hadn't got accepted to this year's class, I would have finished that and tried again."

As an ECU student, Jantzen said he could pick up on most information during lectures and spent a limited amount of time studying for exams.

"But here, it is near impossible to pick up on everything in the fast-paced lectures and I have to spend lots of time outside of lecture and lab studying," he said. "It is just a completely different pace and I have had to adapt my study skills and habits. At ECU, most days I was out of class by noon unless there was an afternoon lab. Here, most days start at 8 a.m. and end at 3 or 5 p.m., and then you have to put in the time outside of class.

"Weekends at ECU were for resting and having fun. Here, they are for catching up."

It's not all work, however. Pattison said the first-year class also plans dances, cookouts, community service projects and recreational activities.

The ECU graduates said ECU prepared them well for medical school.

"I wasn't any less prepared for classes than students who attended the larger universities," said Elizabeth Hall. "I purposely took extra electives that I believe will be, or have been, beneficial. Perhaps if I hadn't taken embryology, histology, medical mycology and experimental molecular biology I wouldn't be as well prepared."

Pattison said Dr. Larry Choate influenced her decision to stay with her dream of becoming a physician.

"I was a confused sophomore and he took the time to advise me on my upcoming life decisions," she said. "Dr. (Ken) Andrews made me a more competitive applicant through working in his research lab and offering advice numerous times for the application process.

"ECU's faculty helped me tremendously in my journey to medical school," she said. "After my first few weeks, I was compelled to send Dr. Andrews an email thanking him for his teaching style in histology. Many other students had not had the opportunity to take the class at their undergraduate university, or they did not feel the course was taught well. It is a difficult subject that many students struggled with. I feel I had an advantage in histology because of Dr. Andrews and ECU's biology department."

Jantzen said ECU professors in the Biology and Chemistry Departments "were the rock of the foundation that got us all here," he said. "Without their classes and recommendations we wouldn't be here. ECU has an impact here at the university and we will have an impact on the health and lives of the residents of Oklahoma."

Jantzen said taking many of ECU's upper level science electives has helped him at OSU.

"You can get as much as you want out of the classes at ECU," he added. "If you want to be prepared, then put in the time and pay attention. There were several times at ECU when I would think, 'Why is Dr. (Charles) Biles telling me this?' Well, the second week of classes here, I found myself more than once going, 'Oh! That is why Dr. Biles told me that."

Jantzen called ECU's professor-to-student ratio in upper level classes "awesome" and said most of the ECU students now at OSU-COM had done research with ECU faculty members.

"Great working relationships lead to greater learning," he said. "The (ECU) professors are great. At times I thought a couple of them might be a little tough, but looking back, it was for our benefit. Here there is no easy. We are challenged every day."

Pattison said she has grown to love the challenge that comes with the daily life of a medical student. She chose the OSU Center for Health Science because she liked what she calls its friendly and caring atmosphere, a sentiment echoed by Jantzen.

"The faculty, staff, and students want everyone to succeed," she said. "Also, I had been shadowing osteopathic physicians and was drawn to the osteopathic philosophy of the body as one unit. I saw my physician making a difference in his community, and knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps."

Hall said she had always wanted to be a D.O. and preferred to stay in Oklahoma. She plans to practice pediatrics.

"OSU-COM was a natural fit and had an added bonus: it's a great school," she said.

The ECU alums probably will work in rural communities, although Jantzen said he is open to other possibilities.

"These (rural) areas are severely lacking in medical care," Pattison said. "I hope to fill that void and become a leader in my community."

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