Alexander American University
School of Medicine

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Academic Advising

The goal of Academic Advising is to ensure each student optimizes his or her path to the MD degree by taking full advantage of the resources of Stanford University and the School of Medicine. Each student is assigned a primary academic advising dean who will work closely with the student throughout medical school.

As each new class matriculates at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, a Promotions Committee is appointed that monitors the academic progress of the class throughout its four years at Vanderbilt. The committee is composed of five faculty members, representing both the basic science and clinical departments. The performance of each student is reviewed and recommendations may be made for advising with Dean Fleming.

In each of the basic science courses, tutors are available to students in need. Students may request tutoring through the course directors, and course directors may suggest to certain students that tutoring would be in their best interest. The course directors themselves are often a source of good advice and suggestions. Dr. Cathy Pettepher is the Student Assistance Director for the first year of medical school. She conducts learning style assessments for every entering student and works with them throughout the year as needs arise.

Students who are concerned about their performance or who have issues that might interfere with their ability to study should not hesitate to speak to Dean Fleming. The door is always open, and occasionally a word of encouragement is all that is needed. Additionally, the students may speak with their College Mentors, each of whom is skilled in working with students surrounding academic, personal, and career-related concerns.

In the second year of medical school, students have a standard set of clerkships to complete, but there is some flexibility within the year so that students can tailor the experience according to their own interests and needs. For example, during the surgery clerkship, students may choose two elective surgical subspecialties from a list of choices. In the psychiatry clerkship, students have the opportunity to select the service that interests them the most, and these range from Child and Adolescent Psychiatry to Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry. Additionally, during the pediatric and the obstetrics and gynecology clerkships, students are allowed to choose a two-week elective experience in a clinical specialty. Though students do occasionally worry about the ordering of their third-year clerkships, we have learned through the years that the final ordering is not terribly important. The best approach for a student in the third year involves maintaining an openness to new experiences and opportunities across a range of specialties. Students need to show that they are effective team members and that they can work well with patients.

The fourth year curriculum has lots of room for choice and innovation. The College Mentors, working closely with Dean Fleming, assist students in scheduling their fourth year according to their specialty choice. Additionally, the College Mentors and Dean Fleming counsel the seniors in the residency application process. There are mock interview opportunities for the seniors, and the College Mentors are available to help the students with the preparation of their CV's and personal statements. Finally, every senior meets individually with Dean Fleming for one hour, after which she completes the Medical Student Performance Evaluation, also known as the "Dean's Letter."

The Medical Student Counseling Center (MSCC) provides academic advising and tutorial services to students free of charge. Most medical students have never or rarely used tutoring services up to this point in their education. Outside of meeting with an academic advisor during undergraduate years to determine class schedules, the majority of entering medical students have not needed to consult with an academic advisor about study skill strategies or test-taking tips.

The demands of medical school are very different from most undergraduate experiences. Not everyone can be at the top of his or her class, and adjusting to the volume and density of information presented in class often leaves students feeling unsure of their ability to learn and integrate it well.

The MSCC offers academic assistance in a variety of ways. Basic study skill strategies, time management and organization training, and special learning techniques can be provided to help students meet the demands of coursework. The Center has resource materials that can help students increase memory skills and make study more efficient and effective. Students who have a specific learning difficulty can be referred to a licensed psychologist at the University Counseling Service who specializes in academic performance needs of graduate students.

Tutor groups are available to all students throughout each semester. During the first two years of medical school most students take advantage of one or more tutor groups. Particularly during the first year of study, joining a tutor group is recommended as a preventive measure for all students; for those struggling academically, it is essential. Our tutors are medical students who have already completed a course of study and have demonstrated their mastery of the material. On occasion, graduate students and residents have also been hired as tutors. Groups are generally small (4 to 8 students), meet on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, and offer students a chance to clarify class material, ask questions, and clear up misunderstandings before exams.

During the first week of classes students receive an e-mail containing the names of tutors for each course and additional information to help in selecting a tutor group (e.g. meeting times, preferred tutoring style, preferred number of students in the group, etc.). However, MSCC counselors are always available as a resource, and will meet with any student to help in the selection of a tutor group based on a student’s particular concerns and needs. Listings of tutors is available in ICON as well as in the MSCC office.

MSCC counselors receive updated information from course directors about students' academic progress so that assistance can be offered before students get irreversibly behind in course work. Students who are at risk for failing a course are invited to visit one of the counselors. This is an opportunity for a student to express his/her concerns, and for the counselors to recommend strategies or services that might help. Tutors are recommended at this time if students are not already using them, and ongoing communication with course instructors is encouraged. Faculty consistently express an openness and willingness to meet to assist students who come to them with questions or concerns.

Every Yale Medical School student is assigned a faculty academic advisor. The four advisors are highly regarded faculty members who have demonstrated dedication to and interest in students and their medical education. Each has 20 percent of his or her effort supported by the dean for this role. The advisors work closely with and report to the dean for student affairs. The advisors meet periodically with their advisees one-on-one and in groups to help students having academic difficulties or questions and to offer advice on navigating the journey through medical school and beyond. With the dean for student affairs, they are responsible for writing their advisees’ deans’ letters or MSPEs.

In addition, the associate dean for student affairs is available to all students to assist with problems of any nature, especially personal issues that students may wish to keep separate from their academic progress. The associate dean meets one on one with every first-year student and any student requesting it throughout medical school. She or he writes letters of recommendation for students applying for scholarships, fellowships, joint-degree programs, and the like; edits the deans’ letters for consistency; and co-signs them. The associate dean meets weekly with the academic advisers to discuss themes that may emerge regarding students’ academic problems in order to bring broader attention to these themes and issues.