A&M defers medical students

By Carmen Galvan
Assistant City Editor

After miscalculating the anticipated student acceptance rate, the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine is now asking 80 students in the class of 2015 to defer their medical education until next year.

According to a letter signed by Filomeno Maldonado, associate dean of admissions at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, and Leila Diaz, director of admissions at the college, 250 students accepted the medical school’s offer when only 170 spots were actually available. The letter, dated in the first week of February and sent to the 250 students who were accepted, came too late for students to choose another school’s offer since the medical schools officially declared their classes on Feb. 1.

“As a result of pre-match offers and the match, our current class size for entering year 2011 stands at 250,” the letter states. “ … Obviously this poses a problem as this incoming group clearly exceeds our sanctioned class size of 170.”

In order to reduce the incoming class to its accredited size, as determined by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the college is asking students to voluntarily choose the option of deferring before the school begins to randomly select students for deferment on April 1.

Dr. Samuel Shomaker, the Jean and Thomas McMullin dean of medicine and vice president for clinical affairs for the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, said the deferred students will be guaranteed a seat in the class of 2016 while also being given four different options while waiting for medical school. Each of the options for students who voluntarily defer includes a one-time $2,000 scholarship. Students randomly chosen for deferment will not receive the scholarship.

“We began working on this right away and began to create a menu of options for students who have been accepted but voluntarily defer acceptance to next year,” Shomaker said. “Things like research rotations in labs of faculty, pursuing an MBA or a master’s in public health are some of the things we have been able to set up and make available to students in that situation.”

Shomaker said the school is working to ensure there are enough placement sites for students interested in research, and that they will receive a stipend for their work in addition to the one-time scholarship.

So far, 10 students have been reported as deferring, Shomaker said.

Shomaker said the miscalculation of offers and acceptances stemmed from unexpected student interest in the college of medicine.

“Typically and historically we use rolling admission, so we have to do predictions every year of how many offers to extend each year,” Shomaker said. “We have had to extend three offers for every one student going to the college of medicine. We used that historical ratio this year as we have in every past year and somewhat surprising was that there are far more students who accepted than have typically been the case.”

Shomaker explained that one out of every two students accepted this year’s offers, leaving the medical school with more students than spots.

“We’re not sure why they were interested in coming, but we do have new campus facilities in Round Rock and in Bryan-College Station,” Shomaker said. “And we have a unique medical school because students can rotate between campuses to experience different elements of the health care system, which makes for interesting curriculum for the students.”

Shomaker said the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine has received a significant amount of student feedback concerning the incident, but is trying to remain positive.

“There has certainly been a range of different responses,” Shomaker said. “Students want more information and we try to be forthcoming and we tell them how we wound up where we are and how other students are taking advantage of the options being made.”

Students applying for the medical school next year will also be affected by the miscalculation. The number of deferred students will be subtracted from the total number of students accepted for the next academic year, leaving about 90 available spots.

Shomaker said he hopes the medical school will remain a source of interest and popularity despite its current challenges.

“We are gratified that more students are interested in coming than we can accommodate, and we want to remain a popular option among the state later, so that’s why it’s important to take care of the students in this situation,” Shomaker said.