C-MED student Kaitlin McClure Shadowing Dr. Glen Quattlebaum at AnMed Health Clemson Family Medicine.  Image Credit: Phoebe Taylor

C-MED student Kaitlin McClure shadows Dr. Glen Quattlebaum at AnMed Health Clemson Family Medicine. (Photo credit: Phoebe Taylor)

CLEMSON — Clemson University students have begun shadowing doctors in South Carolina’s Upstate as part of a new program that is aimed to help students decide whether they want to pursue jobs in health care.

According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, shadowing a clinician is a great way to find out if a career in health care is right for a student.

Additionally, professional schools require students to demonstrate knowledge of the desired field, which is measured by clinical experiences. Students find most shadowing opportunities through personal relationships, giving a significant advantage to those with health-care connections.

To expand clinical exposure to people of all backgrounds, two undergraduate students at Clemson University have created a new program called Clemson Medical Experience Development (C­-MED). While many clinicians welcome the opportunity to teach students about their fields, identifying these providers is a major challenge for students without existing health-care connections. C­-MED removes this hurdle by bridging the gap between clinicians and students searching for shadowing experiences.

“C­-MED started out as a platform where physicians could indicate availabilities in their schedules to students who could then reserve times to shadow,” said Matthew Bickford, one of the founders and a senior majoring in microbiology at Clemson.

Bickford’s co-creator, Elliott Mappus, saw the need to limit the program’s intrusion into clinicians’ daily lives, leading to the transformation of C­-MED into an automated scheduling system. Through C­-MED, a student can see when physicians are available and sign up for shadowing times. The automated program takes care of all the necessary emailing and scheduling.

C-MED Co-founders Matthew Bickford (Left) and Elliott Mappus (Right) Image Credit: Phoebe Taylor

C-MED co-founders Matthew Bickford (left) and Elliott Mappus 
(Photo credit: Phoebe Taylor)

“We wanted to create a system that could be scaled up to handle shadowing for the entire university. With this in mind, we designed C­MED to handle 150 clinicians and 1,000 students,” said Mappus, a bioengineering graduate student at Clemson.

Successful testing in the fall of 2014 led to the creation of a Clemson course taught by Michael Sehorn, associate professor of biochemistry. Through this course, students go through an approval process: agreeing to comply with confidentiality laws, demonstrating proof of vaccinations, passing a tuberculosis test and accepting the C­-MED code of conduct.

“We had to limit program enrollment to 40 students in the inaugural semester; however, we hope to remove this cap for the fall of 2015,” said Sehorn. “The program is off to a great start with C­-MED having already clocked over 400 hours.”

The degree of student engagement while shadowing is left to the discretion of the clinician and depends on the location of the experience. In the operating room, students play strictly an observation role. However, in a clinical setting, some physicians teach students how to take vital signs and actively engage the student in the diagnoses.

After six months of partnering with C­-MED, Glen Quattlebaum, a physician at AnMed Health Clemson Family Medicine said, “The students show up when they are scheduled and ask great questions, getting much more than just the shadowing hours out of the program.”

C­-MED currently offers over 10 shadowing opportunities ranging from physical therapy to orthopedic surgery.

“We are always looking to extend our network of clinical partners and hope to expand to 20 providers by the end of the semester,” said Mappus.

Both Bickford and Mappus have been accepted to and will begin medical school in fall 2015.

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Clemson University
Ranked No. 20 among national public universities, Clemson University is a major, land-grant, science- and engineering-oriented research university that maintains a strong commitment to teaching and student success. Clemson is an inclusive, student-centered community characterized by high academic standards, a culture of collaboration, school spirit and a competitive drive to excel.