The OSU College of Medicine is celebrating its centennial this year. Credit: Thomas Williams / Lantern photographer

54 medical students will graduate early to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Credit: Thomas Williams / former Lantern photographer

Ohio State will allow 54 medical students to graduate Sunday to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic, three weeks before the university’s virtual commencement.

The Board of Trustees approved a resolution Friday to award degrees early to fourth-year medical students who have completed graduation requirements and committed to engaging the current health crisis.

“The additional support from these volunteer medical students will be indispensable in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic,” James Rocco, interim dean of the College of Medicine, said in a university release Thursday. “It speaks to the culture of service at Ohio State that these students are ready to accept this early challenge and help their fellow health care workers on the front lines.”

Some of the early graduating seniors have already been contacted by their residency locations in New York, Ohio, Texas, California and Minnesota asking if they can start early, according to the meeting agenda.

Students who have matched their residencies with the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State could serve as physician extenders, assisting essential physicians in their duties dependent on the size of the COVID-19 surge, a Thursday news release said. Essential physicians cannot be reassigned and are needed to provide care for outpatient, inpatient and consult services.

Ohio University announced Thursday that senior medical and nursing students will graduate April 18 rather than the scheduled dates of May 9 and May 2, respectively. Gov. Mike DeWine signed amended House Bill 197 into law March 27 to allow nursing school graduates to apply for temporary licenses to practice without first passing a licensing exam.

Harvard University, Boston University, Tufts University, the University of Massachusetts, New York University and University of California, Los Angeles are also offering early medical school graduation, according to the agenda.

The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine is granting 90-day limited licenses to fight the COVID-19 pandemic for medical school graduates who received appointments as interns, residents or fellows at Massachusetts health care facilities, according to the Board’s website.

The State Medical Board of Ohio has not yet approved similar measures.

“Some of our students have dreamed about being doctors their whole lives,” Jennifer McCallister, associate dean for medical education in the College of Medicine, said in the release. “This would allow them to provide a significant contribution and give them the opportunity to help when the medical world needs them the most.”