Born in an old brick hospital looking out on downtown Colorado Springs, Cody Brevik has always considered this city home.
Now, he wants to be the one who wears a white coat and cares for the Pikes Peak region's next generation of natives and newcomers.
On Tuesday, Brevik and 21 other medical students began training at the University of Colorado School of Medicine's new branch in Colorado Springs. In doing so, the school took its biggest step yet in realizing a years-long goal of training third and fourth-year medical students here.
Shortly after sunrise, the students gathered for hours of orientation sessions, personality assessments and small-group discussions on professionalism.
Within a week, the students will begin clinical rotations at hospitals across southern Colorado, including Memorial Hospital, Penrose Hospital, Evans Army Community Hospital and the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo.
Those rotations fulfill a final component of Memorial Hospital's lease to the University of Colorado Health, which Colorado Springs voters overwhelmingly approved in 2012. Under the deal, UCHealth agreed to funnel $3 million a year toward the creation of a medical school branch in Colorado Springs.
Local health care leaders also hope the new program helps attract more doctors to the Pikes Peak region, which has a deep shortage of primary care physicians.
Count Brevik among those aiming to reverse that trend.
A Coronado High School graduate, Brevik, 25, said he enjoys emergency medicine and family practice work the best. He's already worked as an emergency room scribe, and he's leaning toward becoming a family practice doctor.
"I just like the idea of being 'The doc' that people can go to first," Brevik said.
At least half of the students already have similar connections to southern Colorado.
However, Dr. Erik Wallace, associate dean for the Colorado Springs Branch, stressed that the program is about more than attracting new talent to the region to work in primary care. Ultimately, he said he aims to train doctors to better navigate a quick-changing industry regardless of their specialty and where they end up practicing.
The next two years could go a long way toward informing their decisions.
The students' first two years were spent in classrooms at the medical school's Aurora campus - making their next two years their first chance to practice medicine in a clinical setting.
After growing up in Monument and graduating from Lewis-Palmer High School, Thomas Wong, 26, said he would like to eventually practice in Colorado.
Beyond that, he's keeping an open mind.
"This is where we actually get to go out into the field and work alongside seasoned veterans and physicians - where we can see where we fit and see where our interests really lie," Wong said.
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