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IU med school keeps low profile

Allen, Kevin | Thursday, February 19, 2004

Tucked away in the basement of Haggar Hall, lies one of Notre Dame’s best kept secrets – a medical school. Since 1972, Indiana University has been renting space in Haggar Hall for the South Bend Center for Medical Education, one of eight centers in the Indiana University Medical School system.

When the South Bend Center first opened, just one IU faculty member worked there. The rest of the teaching staff was made up of Notre Dame faculty, primarily from the biochemistry department. The Center was eventually taken over by full-time IU faculty, eight of which are currently on staff.

With only 16 students in each class at the centers, the IU School of Medicine system allows for an intimate introduction to medical school. Students and professors have the opportunity to learn and teach in a personal setting that is conducive to informal discussions.

“You really get to know your professors,” said Minhaj Khaja, a first-year student at the South Bend Center.

According to the Center’s Web site, students at the South Bend Center are considered “special graduate students” of the University of Notre Dame. This means that even though they are actually students of Indiana University, they are still afforded the privileges of full-time graduate students, which allows them to use University facilities and buy tickets to sporting events. The Center also participates with the University in graduate programs for Master of Science, Ph.D and combined M.D./Ph.D degrees.

Despite attending classes on campus on a daily basis and their status as “special,” many students at the South Bend Center still do not feel like they are a part of the Notre Dame student body. Nevertheless, students who have an interest can find ways to get involved with the larger Notre Dame community.

And some do.

Layne Pantea, a first-year medical student at the Center, has been involved with two campus theater productions this year. Pantea, who also attended Notre Dame as an undergraduate, said opportunities do exist for students at the Center to become part of the University community.

“I think there are ways for students to get involved,” she said.

After students at the centers complete their second year of medical school, they continue their studies at the Indianapolis campus, where their time is spent almost exclusively in hospitals. Medical schools require what Robert Kingsley, a faculty member at the Center since 1974, called large referral hospital facilities – those that perform specialty procedures that smaller hospitals cannot accommodate. Indianapolis hospitals have the ability to perform those procedures in a cost-effective manner that is not possible in South Bend.

“Indianapolis is the only place in the state that has those hospital facilities,” Kingsley said.

Students spend their fourth year of medical school taking elective courses, which do not need to be taken in Indianapolis. Kingsley said many students choose to return to South Bend at this time and complete their elective work at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center.

After more than 30 years of hiding in Haggar Hall, the South Bend Center is moving to a roomier and more conspicuous location – a brand new 66,000 sq-ft. building at the corner of Notre Dame Ave. and Angela Blvd. The building, which is currently under construction, will be owned by Indiana University. The close relationship between Notre Dame and the South Bend Center, however, will not end with the completion of the new edifice; Notre Dame plans to rent 46 percent of the new building to house the W.M. Keck Center for Transgene Research.