Keck students win bowl

A team of six USC Keck School of Medicine students received first place in the annual California Academy of Physician Assistants/ Kaiser Student Medical Challenge Bowl, a competition in which students are quizzed on their medical knowledge. The bowl took place in Palm Springs, Calif., on Oct. 9.

Street smarts · Keck students Carrie Kowalski, Ernesto Ruvalcaba and Brittany Coffin accept a $250 award for first place in the competition. - Photo courtesy of Christopher Forest

Captain Carrie Kowalski, Brittany Coffin, Ernesto Ruvalcaba, Joelle Gizzi, Melinda Oliver and Lauren Ross competed in the bowl. All six participants are second-year students in the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program, which is a three-year master’s program at Keck.

“It is a long-time tradition of USC to participate in this competition. USC won the CAPA bowl trophy last year, so the students wanted to maintain that tradition,” said faculty coach Christopher Forest, an assistant professor at Keck.

Before 2009, the last time USC won the bowl was in 1999.

Five schools participated, including Western University of Health Sciences and San Joaquin Valley College.

The competition was formatted like the show Jeopardy!, and culminated in a final round, Forest said.

The students won a trophy and a $250 prize, which was provided by Kaiser Permanente.

Team members spent several months studying for the competition.

“We prepared individually over the summer and got together every week once school started,” Ruvalcaba said.

Any topic in the realm of medicine was fair game for the bowl. In preparing for the competition, the students said they reviewed a considerable amount of material.

“It was tough as second-years because we haven’t had all the material, so as we were studying we actually had to study stuff that we hadn’t gone over in class,” Coffin said.

The first-place trophy is on display in the student lounge at the USC Physician Assistant Program center in  Alhambra. The trophy will be kept there until next year, when it will be presented to winners of the 2011 Student Challenge Bowl.

“The students take a lot of pride displaying that trophy in the student lounge area,” Forest said. “It’s something the students aspire to keep.”

Coffin said the competition victory is a good way to generate interest in becoming a physician assistant.

“I hope that this encourages more people to look into the profession and know that we are well-rounded practitioners and we have a lot of knowledge at our fingertips. It’s good to get the physician assistant career out there in front of people,” Coffin said.