The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine welcomed members of its Class of 2015, just the second cohort of students in the institution’s history, on August 1. The 42 students, selected from an applicant pool of 2,743, include a software engineer who has invented electronic games, a Navy veteran who served on nuclear submarines, a biology major who taught English in China for a year, a physicist who designs brain imaging devices, and a Haiti earthquake volunteer who worked on a halibut fishing boat in Alaska.

The new class hails from 12 states and 28 undergraduate institutions. Virginia institutions represented include James Madison University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Washington & Lee University, and William and Mary. Other institutions from across the nation include Brigham Young, Cal Tech, Case Western Reserve, Cornell, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Penn State, Princeton, the University of Chicago, the University of Maryland, the University of Minnesota, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Southern California.

Nineteen percent of the students hold graduate-level degrees. The MCAT scores ranged from 30 to 40. Twenty-six percent of the students are members of ethnic minorities, up from 24 percent for the charter class. Forty percent of them are women, up from 29 percent for the previous class.

“We’re making progress in enhancing the diversity of our student body,” says David Trinkle, MD, the school’s associate dean for community and culture. “We’re committed to continually striving to improve diversity through strategic recruitment initiatives, partnering with other medical schools to increase the applicant pool of minorities, and working with our Community and Diversity Advisory Board.”

During her welcome presentation to the new students, the school’s president and founding dean, Cynda Ann Johnson, MD, MBA, emphasized the upside to being the second class. “The charter class has carved a path for you that has turned our ideas into reality,” she said. “Last year every day was new—every lecture, every case, every test question. Now these have all been vetted and refreshed in order to be shared with you, our second class. We believe your first-year curriculum will be an improved product—but not a finished product. We need your engagement and your skills as entrepreneurs to continue to make the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine the best that it can be.”

During their orientation week, the students embarked on an innovative four-year program designed to prepare them for the constantly evolving medical field. This patient-centered, problem-based curriculum, which places strong emphasis on research and interprofessionalism, is what drew many of the students to the school.

“I had been watching the school’s development from the first press release, and this was my top choice,” said incoming student Karen Bowers, who holds a master’s degree in microbiology and bacteriology from the University of Georgia. “As soon as I got my acceptance, I withdrew all my other applications. I’m thrilled to be here.”