New Programs To Increase Health Professionals In the State

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - West Virginia University and Shepherd University have created two health sciences programs designed to keep health professionals in the state.  Details about PharmSTEP and DentSTEP were announced at a press conference held at the Auditorium of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies on Shepherd’s campus on Monday.  PharmSTEP and DentSTEP provide high school students with early admission to the WVU School of Pharmacy or WVU School of Dentistry.  The “STEP” acronym stands for students in the Eastern Panhandle.

PharmSTEP and DentSTEP enrollees will complete pre-coursework requirements at Shepherd University and then attend pharmacy or dental school at WVU’s Morgantown campus.  During the experiential portion of the student’s studies, they will be placed back in the Eastern Panhandle to complete their practice rotations.

“This is a great way to provide students in the Eastern Panhandle with access to the various health sciences programs we have at our Morgantown campus,” said James Koelbl, D.D.S., dean of the WVU School of Dentistry. “It also gives them an opportunity to work alongside healthcare professionals in the Eastern Panhandle.

“Not only is this a great way to attract high-quality students from this part of the state, but will also increase the chances that these students will want to remain in the area to practice once their education and training is complete,” added George Spratto, Ph.D., dean of the WVU School of Pharmacy.

Both Dr. Koelbl and Dr. Spratto participated in the inaugural ceremonies for the programs Monday at Shepherd University.

The Eastern Panhandle is experiencing rapid growth, but faces a shortage of healthcare professionals.  PharmSTEP and DentSTEP are focused on attracting more pharmacists and dentists to the area.  MedSTEP, which is a joint venture between Shepherd and the WVU School of Medicine, was launched in 2004.  It is designed to attract more physicians to the area.

PharmSTEP and DentSTEP are very competitive programs, with a limited number of admission slots awarded in the School of Pharmacy and the School of Dentistry.  Along with stringent criteria used to accept students into the program, high standards must also be attained once admitted. These requirements include maintenance of grade point average minimums while completing pre-course work, achievement of a minimum score on each school’s national admissions test, and completion of a shadowing and a community service program.

The DentSTEP program is partially funded by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant designed to help dental schools in the United States to attract more minority and low-income candidates.

Currently, the WVU School of Pharmacy has one enrolled PharmSTEP student.  The School of Dentistry has two students currently enrolled in DentSTEP.

- WVU -

For more information:
Shelly Stump, HSC News Service, (304) 293-7087

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