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Post-Bacc Program Director Spotlight: Blair Nelson, M.D., Bethel University

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Founded in 1871, Bethel University is a Christian institution located in Minnesota. Starting this fall, Bethel will be offering a new special master’s degree program, the Master of Science in Medical Sciences (MSMS) through a partnership with Tiber Health Innovation Corporation. Its program director is Dr. Blair Nelson, who was kind enough to answer some questions about the new program for PostBaccProgramGuide recently. Read what he has to say about the MSMS below, then visit Bethel University’s website to learn more!

Q: Tell us about Bethel University – what sets you apart as an institution?

A: Bethel University is a Christian university in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) of Minnesota. Our Christian values make Bethel the ideal environment for healthcare education to align science and faith into a powerful therapeutic approach.

The proactive leadership team of Bethel has invested in me as a full-time program director for this master’s program in order to facilitate professional development and faith integration into the curriculum. Not many programs afford a full-time effort for this position, along with my two decades of clinical experience and knowledge of graduate medical application processes.

Q: What is your academic and professional background?

A: I grew up in Grand Forks, North Dakota and attended undergraduate studies at the University of North Dakota, graduating Summa Cum Laude in 1993. I attended medical school at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, graduating with honors in 1998. I completed my residency training at the Mayo Clinic campus in Arizona. I have worked as an ER doctor for the past two decades in North Dakota and Minnesota.

I have always had a passion for teaching, including roles such as director of medical education in the ER where I coordinated students rotating through our department. These included medical/surgical residents, medical students, PA/NP students, nursing/paramedic students, and premedical students.

As I transition to the next phase of my career, I have chosen to focus even more on academia. I taught Anatomy and Physiology at Bethel University to undergraduate students. I have also worked with the company MedSchoolCoach the past couple years mentoring premedical students through the application process, and current medical students through the residency application process.

Q: Tell us about your faculty – what makes them special?

The faculty at Bethel are dedicated to the success of the students and act as mentors for weaving Christian values into academic, occupational, and life situations.

Q: Tell us about your program – what is it and what does it do for students?

A: The MSMS program is designed to help students achieve many goals in the professional healthcare environment. This includes solidifying knowledge to gain confidence to succeed in numerous graduate healthcare programs (medical school, chiropractic school, physician assistant school, veterinary school, podiatry school, etc.).

Also, our program gives admissions committees reviewing our graduates’ applications to their program confidence that the applicant can excel in a rigorous medical academic venue as our program intentionally mirrors the first year of medical school. We also have students who utilize this degree for other avenues, such as giving credibility to medical innovations and research. The faith integration/professional development curriculum that is provided by me also gives an advantage to students in a multitude of future arenas.

Q: What are you most excited about in offering the program?

A: I am passionate about the faith integration/professional development curriculum, which is unique to Bethel University. Through didactic and one-on-one efforts, I enjoy helping students get to that next level of their academic goals and the tools to bring Christianity into the world of medicine.

Q: What do you feel are the most unique features of the program?

A: Having a Program Director who is a medical doctor with numerous years of clinical experience and medical school application expertise, who is 100% committed as a full-time position to help the students learn the material, develop their professional career path, and who is dedicated to integrating Christian values is hard to find at any other program.

Q: How does the program’s delivery method enhance the student experience?

The flipped classroom environment utilizing class time for dynamic discussion instead of traditional didactic lectures is a valuable and efficient learning environment. In addition, my presence in the classroom and open-door office hours to enhance the understanding of the material will create a successful academic venue.

Q: How does your program differ from similar programs?

A: Bethel University’s Christian values, along with the unique Program Director position really make this a one-of-a-kind program that you will not find anywhere else.

Q: How is this program different from other pre-med and post-bacc programs?

A: In addition to the points raised above, some of the advantages of this program include the use of i-click metric data to track where students need extra help. We also have an affiliation with the MD program at Ponce Health Sciences University in St. Louis that offers the top 20% of graduates and interview opportunity. Graduates also have an interview opportunity with the physician assistant (PA) program at Bethel.

Q: How would you describe the rigor and pace of the MSHS program?

A: This program is deliberately designed to match the rigor and pace of the first year of medical school. Therefore, this is a highly rigorous and fast-paced 11-month program.

Q: Who is best suited for your program?

Any student who has obtained their bachelor’s degree that wants to:

  • Add to their foundation of knowledge of medical sciences
  • Gain confidence to succeed in a graduate healthcare program
  • Increase admissions committees’ confidence in their ability to succeed
  • Increase their chances of matriculation into a graduate healthcare program by obtaining a graduate-level GPA
  • Add credentials to their resume to obtain industry research positions

Q: What is the next step for graduates of this program?

A: Many graduates of this program at other schools go on to apply to medical school, PA school, chiropractic school, veterinary school, podiatry school, etc. Some use this degree for entry-level research positions.

Q: What do you feel makes this program ideal for students who are looking to enter an MD program?

A: An M.D. as Program Director with 2 decades of clinical experience/teaching and vast knowledge of the application process to allopathic (or osteopathic) schools. The addition of a graduate-level GPA and proof to admissions committees that the student can excel in a similar curriculum as the first year of med school. Additional knowledge and confidence for the student to excel once admitted to medical school.

Q: What other advanced degree programs do you feel graduates of the program are most prepared for?

A: PA, chiropractic, veterinary, podiatry, optometry. Bethel University offers a highly competitive PA program. All graduates of the MSMS program who meet prerequisite requirements for the PA program will be offered an interview.

Q: How else does this program prepare students for advanced careers in medical and health sciences?

A: In addition to the science curriculum, Bethel University includes two hours per week of professional development and faith integration curriculum.

Q: For students who are interested in the program, what advice do you have in terms of submitting a competitive application?

A: Being of service to others is part of the Christian values of Bethel University. Highlighting how you have done this will make you a competitive applicant. Medicine is a passion and life-long commitment. There is no “end goal” when it comes to a healthcare professional. We are life-long learners.

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