Born amid the pandemic as many other institutions were switching to online-only instruction, the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine is wrapping up its first year of instruction and preparing to welcome its second class, officials said.
The medical school opened its doors last July with an inaugural class of 50 students, according to Dean and CEO Mark Schuster.
The institution has found the city to be a good fit, he said.
“We love Pasadena. There are some other places I think they considered putting the school. If they had, I never would have responded to the search firm, asking if I was willing to be considered. Pasadena is a great draw for us. It’s been an extremely welcoming community and it’s just such a pleasant place to be,” Schuster said.
The Pasadena City Council and other officials have been helpful partners, he said.
“Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, the (city) public health director, has been phenomenal this past year in helping us keep our school as safe as possible while still being able to open and provide a great education. We feel very supported in this community. Our students have found places to live and have enjoyed it, ” Schuster said.
When the pandemic arrived in earnest in March, school officials had to make a decision on whether to continue with their plan to open in person or convert to a digital format.
“We talked within our school and we talked with Dr. Goh, and we recognized that we have a building designed for over 200 students, but it was only the first class,” Schuster said. “So we had 50 students and we could take all of our small groups… groups of eight students and two faculty, and move them into much bigger rooms and have distancing and masking.”
The four-story facility at Los Robles Avenue and Green Street boasts 80,000 square feet.
“And we, of course, incorporated COVID-19 into the curriculum. And it went really well. We have a really creative group of students, faculty, and staff, and we adapted and it was good,” Schuster said.
The new medical school is already attracting significant attention, he said. With nearly 12,000 applications for the 50 available spots, “We have the highest ratio of number of applications to number of spots in the country.”
The first graduates will depart the school in 2024, Schuster said.
The institution focuses on small group-based, hands-on learning.
“We also start clinical work in the third week. Often, that’s done in the third year of school or the second year. We start it right in the third week. So they can start learning right away and see how much they’re learning in the classroom actually applies to taking care of patients.,” Schuster said. “Of course, they’re working with experienced physicians when they’re in the clinical setting.”
The curriculum focuses on three core pillars of biomedical science, clinical science and health system science.
The latter “is quality care and patient safety. It is social determinants of health, meaning the social economic and environmental factors that affect people’s health,” Schuster said.
“What goes on in the home or in the neighborhood in the school and the workplace can have more effects on your health than what we do in the clinic. And if we don’t pay attention to those things, we’re not going to be able to help our patients as much,” he said.
The principles of equity, inclusion and diversity are “woven” throughout the program, Schuster said.
“We actively incorporate it into our curriculum and we’re working very hard to help our students learn how to create an inclusive environment when they are taking care of patients,” he said.
But it’s the students that make the medical school special, Schuster said.
“We have an amazing group of students,” he said. “We have students who are compassionate and engaged in what’s going on in the world, committed to health equity, smart, enthusiastic, and they’re advocates. They’re just a wonderful group of students. And our incoming class is similar.”
More information on the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine can be found on the institution’s website at medschool.kp.org/homepage.