Posts Tagged ‘students’

A Revised MCAT

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

In 2008, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the organization that administers the Medical College Admission Test, appointed an advisory board to recommend changes in the test. Although not scheduled to release their final report until 2012, the board has made some preliminary findings.

Past revisions to the test strengthened its ability to predict medical school grades, but it lacks a way to gauge the personal characteristics that make for a well-rounded physician. The board, which includes a Boston University MD/PhD student, suggests adding a new section on behavioral science to help students demonstrate knowledge of the social side of medicine. A revamped verbal section would emphasize ethics and cross-cultural competency.

The qualities of professionalism may be too ineffable to capture in a standardized test. Fortunately, the recommendations also call for expanding the qualitative elements of a medical school application. Taken together, the preliminary report suggests that preparing doctors is as much an art as it is a science.

Evaluating Evaluations

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

A study of students at the University of Northern Iowa and Southeastern Oklahoma State University found that a third of respondents on course evaluations lie. The Des Moines Register interviewed one of the authors, who said that the mistruths are more likely to be motivated by animus toward the faculty member than appreciation.

The findings confirm other research that questions the validity of student evaluations. In one study, good-looking professors outscored their more homely counterparts on year-end evaluations. The anonymous nature of the forms leads to some disparaging or simply bizarre comments. A colleague of mine received the feedback that, “Dr. X creates a wholesome, Christian environment.” She wasn’t sure if the remark was meant as satire or flattery.

Despite the shortcomings of student evaluations, trainees are in the best position to offer opinions about how teaching can improve. One solution might be to make the forms identifiable so respondents have to own their words. Another idea is for a neutral outsider to conduct focus groups or interviews with students about the course and summarize the suggestions for the faculty member.

Depression

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Medical students exhibit signs of depression at higher rates than a matched sample of the general population. And they show greater evidence of mental illness as their medical education continues.

One positive aspect of this troubling trend would be that medical students enjoy greater access to health care. But again, the data show otherwise. Despite their proximity to medical services, medical students are less likely than their peers to seek help for their condition.

A study at the University of Michigan Medical School published in the Journal of the American Medical Association explores why depression is prevalent among medical students and why they choose not to treat it. The web-based survey found that most students viewed depression with a stigma. Acknowledging their depression, they felt, would cause peers and faculty to see them as less able.

Unfortunately, this picture of an ultra-competitive environment where any admission of weakness is taboo characterizes many doctors’ medical school experiences. As faculty, we should be attentive to the health of students as well as patients. One way to do that is to talk openly about depression and mental health as a way to lessen the stigma.

The Mindset List

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Every back-to-school season Beloit College releases its Mindset List. This list describes the world as seen by the entering class of freshmen. Some of the perspectives on the mind of the class of 2014:

  • Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.
  • DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.
  • Czechoslovakia has never existed.
  • Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.
  • They have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.

Students born in 1992 may haveĀ  historical knowledge of the Cold War or life before the human genome, but they have no personal experience with it. For professors, it is important to know the audience. Seeing the world through their eyes allows us to tailor the concepts we teach. One of the most effective pedagogical tools is to drastically interrupt a deeply-held expectation.

These students still have a ways to go before graduate school, but their worldview is not so far off from that of the entering class of medical students.

Medical School Enrollment

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

In 2006, the Association of American Medical Colleges set a goal of increasing medical student enrollment by 30% to roughly 21,000 in 2015.

At first it seemed like economic trends were pushing in the opposite direction. Inside HigherEd reported that several publicly-financed medical schools were reducing enrollments or contemplating closing altogether. The only increase in numbers came from the opening of new medical schools.

Now, an AAMC survey projects that U.S. medical schools will reach their target of 30% increased enrollment by 2018. And almost all of the 125 schools accredited in 2002 have expanded their student bodies.