Member News

Muncie Furthers Reputation as Healthcare Education Center of Excellence

Friday, February 4, 2022
January 6 convening of Optimus Primary partners

In the midst of growing concerns about healthcare worker shortages, Muncie is cementing its identity as a leader in training physicians, nurses, sonographers, and allied health professionals. 

Since 2017, healthcare organizations and educational institutions in the city have been working together to build a stronger pipeline of medical professionals. 

“Medicine has changed dramatically in the past 100 years, but the way we educate physicians—and to some degree, other healthcare workers—hasn’t always kept pace with these changes,” reflects Jud Fisher, president and chief executive officer of Ball Brothers Foundation. “The story is different here in Muncie: we’re on the leading edge of innovations in healthcare training that will greatly impact our region and the state.” 

Last month, partners in the effort—dubbed “Optimus Primary”—gathered to celebrate several big wins. Among them:

  • The IU School of Medicine-Muncie and Ball State University have launched a “Bachelors-to-MD” program in which high school graduates can receive provisional admission to the IU School of Medicine-Muncie predicated on successful completion of undergraduate work at Ball State. The program includes extensive out-of-class opportunities that introduce program participants to the medical profession and prepare them for a smooth transition to medical school starting during their freshman year of college.   
  • Ivy Tech Community College-Muncie campus has launched a sonography training program, a direct response to a critical need identified by local hospital partners. The program—only the second of its kind in the state—garnered 59 applications for 10 spots during its inaugural year. 
  • Ivy Tech partnered with IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital to help train nursing students working towards their associates degrees. Through a Dedicated Education Unit of the hospital, students partner with experienced nurses who serve as ‘mentor-teachers’ at the hospital for seven weeks of intensive clinical experiences.   
  • Ball State University graduate students and IU School of Medicine-Muncie students have launched a ‘Healthy Lifestyle Center’ with multiple locations which provides free services to community members in diet, physical activity, behavior change, mental health, navigating socio-economic challenges, hearing, and speech. 
  • Open Door Health Services, the IU School of Medicine-Muncie, and IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital are adding new point-of-care ultrasound equipment into their practices and providing opportunities for physicians-in-training to utilize this technology to better serve patients.  
  • Meridian Health Services is developing a curriculum to teach physicians and mid-level providers how to integrate behavioral and mental health supports into their practice, while Ball State University has developed a “Stigma and Bias Training” training program for students and healthcare workers. 

Not only is the effort impacting future healthcare workers, it is directly impacting the health of local community members. And that’s no small feat in a county which ranks 86th out of 92 counties in Indiana for health outcomes. 

“There’s no question that medicine today is about more than ‘sick care.’ Roughly 80% of healthcare costs are related to chronic disease. And nearly 80% of chronic disease is attributed to modifiable lifestyle risk factors. Improving health outcomes through lifestyle interventions is critical,” commented Derron Bishop, Director of the IU School of Medicine-Muncie and one of the key figures in the development of Optimus Primary. “Providing that type of care requires a team-based approach to medicine. It gives physicians who have been trained to work alongside dieticians, mental health professionals, exercise physiologists, and other allied healthcare professionals a huge advantage in providing the kind of patient care that will change the trajectory of health outcomes for individuals and communities.” 

This focus on promoting ‘healthy lifestyles’ and ‘disease prevention’ has emerged as a particularly distinctive aspect of local medical training. The IU School of Medicine-Muncie has even adopted this as a “scholarly concentration,” successfully recruiting medical students to the Muncie campus who are interested in providing this type of care to their patients.     

“Between the IU School of Medicine-Muncie and residency programs at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, Muncie is home to the state’s largest physician training program outside of Indianapolis. Innovative new partnerships with Ivy Tech, Ball State, Meridian Health Services, and Open Door are absolutely positioning Muncie to provide one of the best medical education opportunities in the Midwest,” reflects Jud Fisher. “This is a win-win for Muncie, East Central Indiana, and Indiana. We’re already building a critical pipeline of medical professionals, and we’re just getting started.” 

Ball Brothers Foundation, one of the state’s oldest and largest family foundations, has awarded over $2.2 million to the “Optimus Primary” effort. The foundation has been making grants to improve healthcare since it was established in 1926. 

To learn more about Optimus Primary, visit: https://www.ballfdn.org/optimus-primary

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