Professor giving a lecture to students in old main

Training the next generation of health care professionals

Wofford College receives MagMutual Foundation grant to support pre-med students

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At the MagMutual Foundation check presentation (left to right): Dr. Bill James, Dr. Natalie Spivey, Dr. G.R. Davis, Dr. John Moeller, Dr. Mary Beth Knight and Dr. Ellen Goldey.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — The Saturday morning of the first home football game of the year, a group of Wofford College students wakes up early, dresses in their best interview attire and takes a practice run at the future.

They're pre-med students, and they are meeting experienced doctors and Wofford graduates who are giving their time to help mentor, prepare and encourage the next generation of Wofford physicians.

"We've held these mock-interview sessions for the past three years," says Dr. Natalie Spivey, assistant professor of biology and the college's pre-med adviser. "They allow our students to gain interview experience in a low-stress environment while gathering advice from Wofford graduates practicing in the field."

Dr. George Tyson ’72 and Dr. Bill James ’72, two of the physicians involved in the mentoring program, have taken their support a step further by seeking and securing a grant from the MagMutual Foundation designed to support success for Wofford's future health care professionals.

"MagMutual is dedicated to pouring money back into patient safety," says James, who came to Wofford on behalf of the physician-owned company in June to present the check. "MagMutual does that by funding training for future physicians and nurses."

Wofford will use the gift to:

  • Help fund MCAT preparation courses and practice exams, which benefit students but are often prohibitively expensive
  • Update the college's MCAT prep library in response to the changes to the MCAT in 2015
  • Purchase appropriate interview attire for students in need of that service

"It's important to Dr. James, who helped us apply for the grant, and Dr. Tyson, who founded the mock-interview program, that financial barriers not negatively impact the ability of our Wofford students to optimally compete in all areas of the medical school application process. This MagMutual grant will make a huge difference," says Spivey.

According to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Association of American Medical Colleges, "creative engagement in the elements of a broad, intellectually expansive liberal arts education" is the ideal college education for future physicians.

Wofford has a long history of graduating students who go on to study medicine with an alumni network of more than 1,300 doctors, dentists or other health care professionals, says Spivey. "An average of 77 percent of pre-med students at Wofford with at least a 3.3 GPA and a competitive MCAT score are accepted into the medical school of their choice. From 2010 until 2015, an average of 32 Wofford students (9 percent) were accepted each year into medical school." That's the highest percentage of graduates in the state and one of the highest in the country.

"Meeting the students and doing the mock interviews has been fun," says James. "I'm impressed with how many Wofford students I'd let take care of me."

Jacob Balmer ’16, of Spartanburg, S.C., was one of those students. "The best advice I received during the mock interviews came from Dr. George Tyson. He said to make sure to be yourself and actually answer the interviewers' questions. They can tell when you are putting on a front or twisting a question to give an already rehearsed answer. At the end of the day, some interviewers want to see if you can think on the spot."

Balmer credits the MCAT library and practice sessions as well as the college's rigorous science classes and thorough advising from the Biology Department with his successful application to the Medical University of South Carolina. He begins classes in August, as does classmate Matthew Tran ’16, who is enrolled at the Medical College of Georgia.
Tran began applying for medical school the summer after his junior year and believes that the MagMutual grant will enhance the work that Wofford pre-med advisers and alumni volunteers do to help successful students like him become successful medical school applicants.

"Most simply and sincerely put, MAG supports the people who care for our dear patients — nurses and doctors," says Dr. Joe Wilson, CEO of the MagMutual Insurance Company, one of the largest medical professional liability insurers of physicians and hospitals in the United States. "MAG does this in real time, but by supporting Wofford College and other institutions, MAG also can do this important work for the next generation."