It was a packed house one day last week for a lecture by Dr. Heather Drummond, professor of physiology and biophysics. indicative of UMMC's overall enrollment picture.
It was a packed house one day last week for a lecture by Dr. Heather Drummond, professor of physiology and biophysics. indicative of UMMC's overall enrollment picture.
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Go figure: Overall enrollment is up again

Published on Monday, November 6, 2023

By: Gary Pettus,

Photos By: Melanie Thortis/ UMMC Photography

High five, UMMC.

The official enrollment numbers from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) are in and the University of Mississippi Medical Center hit a high mark for the fifth straight year.

The figure of 3,114 represents a 1 percent rise over 2022, including residents/fellows and six UMMC schools – all except pharmacy, whose share is part of the official count for the University of Mississippi’s School of Pharmacy in Oxford.

Those showing the biggest gains over last year are the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences – 9.5 percent – and the School of Nursing – 1.3 percent. The number of residents/fellows is up by 5 percent.

LouAnn Woodward

“It’s reassuring to see so many students dedicating their lives to the care of patients who will benefit from the knowledge those students gain here at the state’s only academic medical center,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“By enrolling in our schools, these future caregivers and scientists are showing their determination to meet the challenges of providing quality health care for generations to come; we are proud to be able to help them pursue their calling.”

Not counting the 684 residents/fellows, enrollment fell – by one, to 2,430. Dr. Scott Rodgers, for one, is encouraged  by the schools’ commitment to excellence, including their sustained recruitment of “high-achievers.”

Scott Rodgers

“The overall picture shows that our schools are competitive, that they are attracting very high quality candidates, promising them a great education,” said Rodgers, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“Across the seven schools, we are thriving.”

That’s particularly true of the School of Graduate Studies, which added 21 students for a total of 241.

“This academic year has the highest enrollment the SGSHS has seen,” said Dr. Sydney Murphy, school dean.

Sydney Murphy

“While enrollment in our PhD programs has remained consistent, the increase in enrollment results from an expansion of our Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences degree program and the addition of our Doctorate of Audiology program. 

“The MS in Biomedical Sciences program strongly focuses on preparing students for entrance into professional school and, over the past 13 years, has grown from five students to just under 150. Many of our graduates progress into professional degree programs here at UMMC. 

Quinesha Williams, far right, is one of 241 learners pursuing degrees in the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, which showed an enrollment gaine of 9.5 percent over last year.
Quinesha Williams, far right, is one of 241 learners pursuing degrees in the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, which showed an enrollment gaine of 9.5 percent over last year.

“In addition, the Doctorate of Audiology welcomes eight students to our campus in their first cohort, and we are hopeful of increasing the class size over the next several years.”

The School of Nursing, the largest school on campus, increased its size to 861 students, up by 11 over last year. Dr. Tina Martin, professor of nursing and interim dean of the school, forecasts even more growth, especially with a new, 106,000 square-foot building in the works.

Tina Martin

“We will be able to accommodate up to a 25 percent increase in enrollment once the new facility is open,” Martin said. Groundbreaking for the project took place in June.

“UMMC is working to meet the need for more nurses in the state through its holistic admissions review process and strategic recruitment plans,” Martin said.

In the School of Dentistry enrollment is stable, as expected; the number of those accepted each year is fixed. At 202, the figure is up slightly over last year, by two. 

Likewise, the School of Medicine has a set admissions rate. Its enrollment sum, 654, is down by a margin of three.

Loretta Jackson-Williams

“Applications to medical school did drop this year,” said Dr. Loretta Jackson-Williams, professor of emergency medicine and vice dean for medical education.

“But I am a pragmatic optimist. The school is doing everything we can to continue to have a robust application pool. Getting into medical school requires years of sustained excellence; it’s a long-term commitment and we recognize that.

“But the work of our admissions office, our early assurance programs, support programs and outreach programs will continue to get those students excited about what we are doing as physicians and why we are doing it.

“Young people have a lot of options to pursue these days, especially those with the academic qualifications to get into medical school. And the long-term implications of the education process because of COVID have been unreal.

“Those who are recruiting these students should be honest about the medical environment, but also express the joy we’ve found in pursing this profession – one of the most rewarding.”

It’s also vital that the various schools work with each other, Jackson-Williams said. “Together, we can recruit those who are interested in and motivated by health care in general.

“If they learn about all of us, perhaps they will be more likely to choose one of us.”

Two other schools – the John D. Bower School of Population Health and the School of Health Related Professions – documented decreases as well.

After recording a 17.8 percent surge in enrollment last year, the highest among all schools, the School of Population Health dipped by 12 students this year, for a total of 41.

Thomas Dobbs

“We had a pretty big graduating class last year. Of the 53 students enrolled in 2022, 18 of those students graduated this year,” said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, professor of population health and school dean.

“The John D. Bower School of Population Health, which was launched in 2016, is maintaining a trajectory of growth.”

Dobbs leads a school that embraces three departments: data science, population health science and preventive medicine.

“To strengthen our positive impact on campus and for the state of Mississippi, we are also working to incorporate the field of population health into other professional disciplines at UMMC,” Dobbs said.

“Our research portfolio has more than doubled in the past year – serving both our academic and research missions. Positive community impact is part of our school’s essence.

“Through the growth we’ve seen at the Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities, we are better able to serve the Jackson community and expand our community-based research initiatives.”

For its part, SHRP has 431 students, 20 fewer than last year.

Jay Garner

“We have fairly stable enrollment numbers across our 12 academic programs,” said Dr. Jay Garner, dean of SHRP.

“We are at capacity in our traditionally popular programs, as we remain innovative in recruiting bright, aspiring students to other more specialized programs. And we will continue advertising statewide to maintain and, hopefully, build on what we have here.”

As chief academic officer, Rodgers perceives “no major issues with any of the schools. The rates of retention, graduation and licensure are high,” he said.

The licensure pass rate and the graduation rate both exceed 90 percent, said Kenneth Thompson, PhD, director of institutional research. This is a tribute to the faculty as well, Rodgers said.

“The students are the lifeblood of the institution, but the faculty are also critically important,” said Rodgers, adding that faculty number around 1,200, with about 900 in the School of Medicine.

“As an institution we are an economic engine for the state of Mississippi. We give our students job opportunities, post-graduation, and they are doing well.

“I believe UMMC is a beacon of hope – and the students see that.”