First cohort of Master in Medical Sciences students cross the finish line

August 17, 2022

Just a year ago, the first cohort of Jacksonville University's Master of Science in Medical Sciences stepped foot on campus. Now, those students have completed the rigorous, one-year program with knowledge under their belt and careers in healthcare ahead of them.

Of the 16 students in the inaugural cohort, some are headed to work right away at places such as Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center, UF Health and other area healthcare providers or are interviewing at area hospitals. Others are taking what they learned in the program and working toward attending medical school or dental school in the coming year, spending the next few months studying for entrance exams. 

Dr. Wayne Mier, the MSMS program coordinator, said his first cohort is heading in all different directions, but has one thing in common. 

“I believe that all of the students truly achieved the mission of the Master of Science in Medical Science (MSMS) program, which is to prepare its graduates for a successful career in medicine,” he said. “We have a diverse group of graduates who all desire to help people. For some, this means attending medical school to become an MD or DO. For others, it means becoming a dentist and helping people have healthy teeth and a great smile. Some aspire to become physician assistants and physical therapists.” 

The cohort held a graduation celebration earlier this summer to commemorate their achievements along with graduating students from the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. 

Students in the inaugural cohort studied anatomy and physiology, neuroscience, medical ethics, biochemistry and microbiology through lectures and hands-on experiences.

The Master of Science in Medical Sciences program is uniquely designed to help prepare students for medical school, other medical professional programs, or to launch a career in related fields like public health or clinical research. 

That’s why students like Shamara Wilburn decided to enroll in the program. Wilburn is planning on taking the MCAT this year in hopes of attending medical school. She hoped the program, which mirrors the first year of an LCME-accredited medical school curriculum, would give her a jump start in medical school and in her future career as a gastroenterologist.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to improve my chances of getting accepted into medical school as well as test out my preparedness for medical school,” she said. 

Wilburn said enrolling in the program paid off. While she studies for the MCAT, she landed a job at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center as a patient access representative, which will further enhance her medical school application.  

“I've gained so much from the program in so many ways,” she said. “I was challenged academically like I have never been before, it forced me to reevaluate my studying skills and, in the end, made me a better student. My time management and discipline when it comes to my studies is higher than I ever thought possible thanks to the rigor and challenge of the program. Having such a small knit class felt so personal. I felt as though our program director, professors, moderators and even classmates cared about our success as students and individuals.”

Justin Harris had similar goals coming into the program. He hopes to attend physician assistant school following graduation. 

“I believed this program was the steppingstone to reach my ultimate goal,” Harris said. “The intense medical curriculum would better prepare me for any healthcare profession that I decide to pursue. For a student like myself who needed a way to enhance my application for the physician assistant program, this was the best way to do that. 

“I believe I gained valuable knowledge that will help me in my future studies. I have also gained more confidence to continue pursuing my dream of becoming a physician assistant. This was an intense program and if you can make it through this, you can make it through anything.”

To enroll in the MSMS program, apply here by Nov. 1 for the spring semester, April 1 for the summer and July 1 for the fall.

The MSMS program at JU is possible through a unique partnership with Ponce Health Sciences University (PHSU) through Tiber Health. The JU MSMS program provides the top 20% of graduates a guaranteed interview for PHSU’s medical program at either their St. Louis, Missouri or Ponce, Puerto Rico campuses; please note that to interview for the Ponce, Puerto Rico program, the applicant will need to be fluent in Spanish for the interview.


Katie Garwood

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