Blazing a medical trail

The Medical College of Wisconsin's new Green Bay campus is gearing up to welcome its inaugural class July 6, and two recent University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire biology graduates will be among that group.

Jared Metropulos, Cameron, and Brandon Stradel, Denmark, who both graduated from UW-Eau Claire May 23 with a biology major and chemistry minor, have been accepted to the MCW-Green Bay program, which is designed to train future doctors who are interested in primary care and who have a desire to practice in Wisconsin.

The new campus will offer a contemporary learning experience that links medical education to promoting health in local communities, said Dr. Julie Anderson, director of UW-Eau Claire's Health Careers Center. 

"Both Brandon and Jared are interested in practicing in a small-town setting, so MCW-GB is a great fit for them," Anderson said. "They are both well-suited to be a part of something new and innovative. It takes a certain level of courage to be in the inaugural class of a new medical school campus. They are the type of individuals who are open to new and exciting adventures." 

Metropulos said MCW-Green Bay's community-based program is designed to give students early clinical access and exposure in the communities in which they will ultimately live and work.

"I'm from a small town in Wisconsin and have always planned to stay in Wisconsin," Metropulos said. "The program was created for the purpose of filling the needs of Wisconsin communities. Its focus is on primary care, psychiatry and general surgery, all of which I've shadowed or researched and am interested in pursuing." 

Metropulos has been a medical scribe in the emergency department at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire for almost two years, documenting thousands of patient encounters, performing basic administrative tasks and ensuring the program's quality.

"It was the countless experiences volunteering and working alongside doctors that led me to understand that as a doctor I can be all of the things I desired to be: a leader, a planner, a coach, an educator, a researcher and a supporter," he said. "Being a medical doctor gives me the unique opportunity to be all of those things while diagnosing and treating medical disorders."

During his four years at UW-Eau Claire, Stradel was active in the Pre-Professional Health Club and a member of the Blugold wrestling team. He received several scholarships and awards, including the Wisconsin Rural Opportunity Foundation Biology Scholarship, the William E. Slagg Biology Scholarship, the Ed and Beth Hicks Pre-Medicine Scholarship and the Ricky Gonzales Memorial Award in wrestling. 

"My interest in becoming a physician stemmed from my interest in the biological sciences," Stradel said. "My decision to pursue a medical degree was ultimately the result of shadowing with physicians, my patient care experiences and my experience volunteering abroad for underserved communities in Costa Rica."

Stradel said he hopes to practice in the Green Bay area someday and is leaning toward a specialization in surgery or family medicine. 

Anderson said it is a testament to UW-Eau Claire's outstanding students and programs that two Blugolds have been accepted to the new MCW medical school class.

"Brandon and Jared are outstanding individuals and will serve the health care needs of the state very well in the future," she said. 

MCW-Green Bay expects to enroll 25 students per year in a collaborative model that includes classroom and administrative spaces at St. Norbert College in De Pere and educational components at Bellin College, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and UW-Green Bay. Students will complete their course work in three years, rather than the typical four, lowering their debt burden upon completing their medical education. 

The campus was developed to address the need for future physicians in northeast Wisconsin and across the state and will employ an immersive teaching model in which students receive core basic science and clinical experience in the community, said Dr. Matthew Hunsaker, campus dean of MCW-Green Bay. 

"Research has shown that 70 percent of medical students who complete both their medical education and medical residency in the same region will elect to stay there to practice medicine," Hunsaker said. "Our hope is that this immersive education model leads to the growth and development of physicians who then remain in Wisconsin communities and care for the people who live there."

Photo caption: Recent UW-Eau Claire biology graduates Jared Metropulos, left, and Brandon Stradel have been accepted to the inaugural class of the Medical College of Wisconsin-Green Bay.