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School of Medicine Columbia

A Class Act First Florence-Trained Medical Students Look Toward the Future

Even before medical school, Janina Gregorski was saving lives. While working as a EMT with a volunteer fire department in Maryland, she learned how crucial real hands-on training could be. She learned how to care for patients in the field from the very people who do it every day. And she wanted that same type of experience at USC.

Gregorski is among the first cohort of eight USC School of Medicine students who chose to live and learn in Florence as part of a regional campus arrangement with Francis Marion University. She and her fellow students will graduate on May 5.

The program, founded in 2015 to help address the shortage of primary care providers in rural and underserved areas of the state, allows third and fourth year medical students to complete their clinical rotations at the new downtown Luther F. Carter Center for Health Sciences Complex, McLeod Regional Medical Center and Carolinas Hospital System.

“When I heard that the Florence campus offered the challenging and unique opportunity to work directly with attending physicians and gain hands-on experience significantly above the average medical student, the decision to move there was easy.”

The program also gives local physicians a welcome chance to share their valuable knowledge and help mold future healers. But students didn’t just learn from the doctors. Gregorski says all of the hospital and clinic health professionals - medical technicians, pharmacists and nurses - played a role in the training process.

“The sense of community and team approach to medicine was fantastic. And if help was ever needed you did not have to look far.”

After receiving her M.D. degree next month, Gregorski will begin an emergency medicine residency – one of the most competitive specialties for medical students – at Darnall Army Medical Center in Fort Hood, Texas.

She says her experience in Florence demonstrated the significant difference a physician can make by choosing to practice in a medically underserved area. “I saw first-hand the impact a lack of access to health care can have – not just on an individual's life, but on their family and the community as a whole.”

Reflecting on the last two years and looking forward to the impending commencement ceremonies, Florence assistant dean for medical student education Dr. Bill Hester says the regional campus drew an exceptionally motivated and intrepid group of aspiring doctors.

“First, all were brave enough to step out into a “new world” – one with no track record, a faculty that was not trained as educators and a new office of medical administration,” he says. “All eight were go-getters who figured out what needed to be figured out. They were dedicated to each other and they are very dedicated to the school.”

Hester says he hopes the program will build on the Class of 2017’s legacy and help bolster the area’s growth and revitalization.

“The Florence community has taken these students under its wing and introduced them to a progressive city where millions of dollars – public and private – are being invested in the betterment of the city.”

16 third year medical students are currently training in Florence, and 12 more will arrive at the regional campus in June.

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