Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, New Jersey
Since its founding in 2009 by the New Jersey legislature at the urging of the Camden community, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) has integrated the community into the fabric of the school, exemplifying its motto, “Camden is our classroom; Camden is our home.”
Since CMSRU enrolled its first class in 2012, its medical students have participated in required service learning throughout all four years of their education through programs designed in partnership with community members to address community-identified needs like homelessness, food insecurity, child obesity, and poverty. These programs currently include the free student-run Cooper Rowan Clinic, housed at the school’s clinical partner, Cooper University Health Care; CMSRU Street Medicine; service at Cathedral Kitchen, which provides meals and culinary arts training; and Girls on the Run, a program that builds confidence among elementary school girls.
Other service-learning programs, like Tutor Time, Haven at LUCY, and Upward Bound for English Language Learners, contribute to one of Camden’s central goals: maximizing educational opportunities to help the city’s youth excel. CMSRU provides additional educational opportunities through pipeline programs for students in elementary school through college. CMSRU faculty and students teach participants about health professions and health topics through the Primary Urban Partnership with elementary students, the Junior Urban Medical Pioneers High School Academy, and the Pre-Medical Urban Leaders Summer Enrichment Program (PULSE), which offers three phases for collegiate learner development. Though the program is less than a decade old, 44% of PULSE graduates have now enrolled at medical schools across the country, including CMSRU.
These programs exemplify the strong bidirectional trust and mutual respect between CMSRU and numerous organizations, industries, and neighbors and have the shared goal of making all nine-square miles of Camden a great place to live.
“There are no barriers between the school and the community,” says Dan Lombardo, CEO of Volunteers of America, Delaware Valley. Mr. Lombardo is also one of the Camden community members who participates as a full member of the CMSRU admissions committee, a partnership that ensures incoming students exemplify the school’s dedication to service.
In addition to required service learning, the ambulatory clerkship and other CMSRU courses are infused with population health principles and quality improvement work to ensure that students graduate with a profound understanding of how communities should inform their medical practice.
“Service helps our future physicians build a base of knowledge that will enable them to address the health and wellness needs of all populations,” explains Annette Reboli, MD, dean of CMSRU.
To maximize its investment, CMSRU’s community engagement and service-learning programs are centrally organized through the Office of Diversity and Community Affairs.