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First class of students in the Accelerated Scholars Program begins study at Upstate

Upstate Medical University’s first class to enter the Norton College of Medicine through its Accelerated Scholars Program matriculated this fall and makes up 10 percent of this year’s class.

And the numbers only rise from there, as the program’s popularity grows.

“This will be the smallest percentage for the foreseeable future of students who are coming into the MD program from the Accelerated Scholars’ pathway,” said Krystal Ripa, PhD, director of special admissions programs who developed the program.

Each year, 62,000 applicants compete for 23,000 seats in medical schools across the country. Upstate offers high school seniors, college freshmen and sophomores certain of a future in medicine an expedited track into one of its 175 slots through its accelerated program.

Launched in 2018, the program is designed for students who wish to apply to both an undergraduate institution and medical school simultaneously. Doing so saves time, stress, and money by eliminating the need to apply to multiple medical schools and take the medical college admission test (MCAT). The program also allows undergraduates to explore a diverse undergraduate course load without worrying about focusing on pre-med requirements, and it builds community and connection among participants through summer programming while they are undergraduates.

Sixteen students have matriculated for the 2022-2023 academic year, and that number grows to 21 who have been accepted for Fall of 2023 and at least 41 for Fall of 2025.

“Our current students in the pipeline are our best recruiters at the undergraduate level,” Ripa said. “They are having a good experience, they feel the connectedness, they feel the community and they feel the benefits.”

Ripa said in 2018, her only goal was to have a BS/MD or BA/MD program that had summer programming and didn’t require the MCATS. She turned to the Association of American Medical Colleges to learn what the program should look like in best practice and theory. That grew into a partnership with 15 colleges and universities and a program built around the AAMC pre-med competencies that are guided by the Upstate Accelerated Scholars Taskforce with members across the Upstate campus.

High school seniors can enter the program through Adelphi University, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (ACPHS), Hampton University, Purchase College, Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), Spelman College, Syracuse University, University at Albany and Yeshiva University.

College freshmen can enter from Binghamton University, Colgate University and Hamilton College, and sophomores can enter through Bard College at Simon’s Rock.

Members of the inaugural class are 75 percent women. Four students come from Purchase College, two each come from RIT, UAlbany, Adelphi and Hamilton, and one each from Bard Simon’s Rock, ESF, former partner Hobart William-Smith.

A key component of the program is that it allows students to major in subjects not typically associated with a premedical track in order to create a more diversely trained workforce of physicians.

“Students can spend their undergraduate years doing what fulfills them and exploring their diverse passions and interests instead of having to manipulate their experiences based on what med schools are looking for,” Ripa said.

First-year student Marcea Bond, who grew up in Oregon but lived in Syracuse for nine years, said she applied to the program because she has always been interested in becoming a doctor and knew she wanted to serve the Syracuse community.

“I also liked the freedom I could have my senior year of undergrad by having a guaranteed acceptance,” she said. “The summer programs gave me a chance to get to know faculty and students at upstate, along with my fellow matriculants. The work we did was insightful, and I still had time to enjoy my summer.”

High school students apply for the program when they apply to one of the partner schools. Once they are accepted as an undergraduate, the partner school then determines if they will be recommended for an interview for a medical school slot. The path is similar for college freshmen and sophomores. Once accepted, programming begins in the summer, which can be in person or virtual, with both synchronous and asynchronous material. Students earn credits and also take practice MCAT exams for the experience, as well as get to know each other, the school, and their professors—all before they officially start medical school.

“It’s a lot of work but extremely rewarding, so far it’s been less than three months and I can already see how much I have learned,” Bond said. “I felt well-prepared and came in with a lot of resources and a network of people to reach out, too.”

For more information on the program go to https://www.upstate.edu/com/admissions/options/uas/index.php

Caption: This summer, high school students enrolled in Upstate's Accelerated Scholars Program gather on campus for special programming that can help them excell in medical school.