Student reflects on UofL program to help increase Kentucky physician workforce


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – One of the first students to enroll in a program at the University of Louisville to help address Kentucky’s acute shortage of physicians has completed the program, putting her one step closer to her goal of becoming a physician.

    Melissa “Missy” Sullivan of Louisville enrolled in the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Med Program (PBPM) at UofL in its inaugural semester, Spring 2009. She will start classes at the UofL School of Medicine in August.

    The PBPM program enables post-bac students who have minimal pre-med science backgrounds to complete coursework necessary to qualify for medical school admission. It was implemented to help increase the health care workforce in Kentucky. It is jointly administered by the School of Medicine and the College of Arts and Sciences.

    “The Commonwealth of Kentucky needs more physicians to practice in medically underserved areas,” V. Faye Jones, M.D., Ph.D., associate dean and head of the Office of Minority and Rural Affairs, said. “Today, 80 of Kentucky’s 120 counties are federally designated as Health Professional Shortage Areas. Our program exists to serve as a potential remedy to this problem by helping to enable more students earn medical degrees.”

    Students in the two-year program attend pre-med classes and receive advising and mentoring specially designed for post-bac students. They also benefit from other programs and services that are geared to help them succeed. Upon the successful completion of the program, they are assured admission to the UofL medical school if they meet the necessary criteria.

    Students can have a background in any discipline, and the current group of 26 students enrolled in the PBPM earned bachelor’s or master’s degrees in sociology, engineering, journalism, philosophy, business administration, art history, music and more.

    Mother of four feels compelled to give back

    Married to Sean Sullivan and the mother of four children aged 4, 5, 7 and 10, Missy Sullivan earned two bachelor’s degrees from Bellarmine University in 1993, one in economics and the other in psychology. She said she was motivated to enter the post-bac pre-med program by a desire to contribute to society.

    “I have a good life and feel compelled to give back,” she said. “I also have looked back on my decision to not pursue medicine as a career with regret. This program and the support of my family enabled me to return to school.”

    She recommends the program to others. “It is ‘one-stop shopping’; in my very busy life, if I needed answers for something related to the program, just an e-mail or phone call to (program director) Tonia Thomas got me what I needed,” she said. “Probably the greatest asset of this program is the ability to meet UofL medical school faculty and admissions committee members.”

    “In addition, since this is an accepted certificate program, I have had access to student loans that normally are not available to post-bac students. This has allowed me to decrease work hours and concentrate more on studying.”

    She also cites the support of her employer, Day Spring, a Louisville provider of services to adults with intellectual disabilities. “I’ve spent the past 15 years working for Day Spring, which has been extremely supportive of my decision to make this major career change. Much of my work time was flexed to the third shift so my days were opened up for class work.”

    As a wife, mother, employee and post-bac student, Sullivan said she went into the program with a realistic view of balancing her many roles. “I started this journey with the attitude that I would continue only if I could get the grades needed with the amount of time and energy I could dedicate to the process. I haven’t received straight A’s, but I haven’t missed much in my children’s lives, either – and that would have been a bigger regret.”

    Sullivan was one of two students who enrolled in Spring 2009; the other student chose to leave the program before completion. Four other students have completed the program: Zachary Hester, who enrolled in Fall 2009 and John Gettelfinger, Karl Kristiansen and Rebecca Teague who enrolled in Spring 2010.

    For information on the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Med Program, visit

    Jill Scoggins is Director of Communications at UofL's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. She has been at UofL since 2010.