It's about time someone re-evaluated how much students actually learn by dropping expensive laboratory glassware on the floor and cutting frogs open. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) gave $1.4 million to Mississippi's Millsaps College this week to overhaul their science curriculum, according to New-medical.net. The new program will attempt to get more kids interested in pre-medical education and other types of scientific training. (See HHMI: Grants for Science Education)
HHMI selected Millsaps out of 46 other schools nationwide to receive the money as part of a larger $50 million project to improve schools with promising track records that seem like they could do more if given the opportunity. They released a report in 2009 that provides a more in-depth explanation of why and how they choose schools such as Millsaps for improvement.
Millsaps dean and senior VP for academic affairs, Keith Dunn, said the college will use the money from HHMI to
expand its longstanding leadership role in educating future physicians and healthcare providers. Our enhanced curriculum will allow us to play a central role in addressing Mississippi's critical need for more and better trained physicians. The HHMI grant will also increase science literacy for all Millsaps students.
Among other opportunities, HHMI's grant will pay for students at Millsaps to share their research through the Mississippi Academy of Sciences in addition to other similar organizations in the area.
The money is well invested. Compared to the national average, Mississippi has a noticeably low ratio of physicians compared to their national population. Information from the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that, per 10,000 people, the national average of physicians is 27.7. In Mississippi, that number drops to 18.2.
Robert W. Pearigen, Millsaps President, concurs that the grant came at a crucial time. Right now is a "strategic moment in Mississippi history," Perrigen explains, as several independent interests conflate with "plan[s] to unite the medical, higher education and corporate communities around promoting Jackson as a regional healthcare destination" gain increased attention. If Pearigan's predictions are correct, it makes sense for HHMI and other similar donors to continue investing money in science and healthcare education systems in the Jackson area.