Monday, July 25, 2016

New College of Human Medicine Prerequisite Models Offer A Variety of Pathway Options

In case you’ve been under a rock for the last few decades, you’re well aware that the world is changing all around us.  Some changes are serious and life-altering; others, not so much.

In the world of science, new discoveries and knowledge add foundational context from which the future of medicine must learn to incorporate and adapt.  Higher education communities have raised concerns about whether or not premedical curricula have kept up with these changes; what seemed to work yesterday may not be what works tomorrow.

Many medical experts agree that an undergraduate education should not be geared towards only getting students into medical school; instead, these years should be dedicated to creativity within an intellectually stimulating liberal arts education.

Congruent with this mindset is the concept that prerequisites (or for that matter any scripted course of undergraduate study) should not be so overwhelming that the applicant seems pressured to emphasize (major in) science in lieu of other academically rigorous disciplines, especially those within divisions of humanities and social sciences.

Approximately three years ago, the College of Human Medicine (CHM) put together a committee of premedical experts to review our legacy prerequisites.  One thing that came out of committee discussion is that there is no “one size fits all” in the world of preparatory premedical coursework that sufficiently meets the needs of all medical schools and its applicants.

Flexibility in the curriculum, though, did come forth as a key concept in trying to meet the many types of qualified applicants that exist in today’s changing world. This coincides with schools, including our own, taking a more holistic approach to reviewing applicants once they apply to medical school.

Starting with the 2016-17 application cycle, a new set of course prerequisite models will be implemented.

The New Prerequisites 

In order to meet the needs of as many applicants (both traditional and nontraditional) and undergraduate institutions, CHM embraced a flexible approach in providing various options (or pathways) to meeting premedical course requirements as follows:

OPTION A: MCAT-Influenced Preparation Model

This model follows a historically traditional pathway of prerequisites that should prepare students for both the MCAT exam and an entry-level undergraduate medical curriculum:

  • Biology with lab (1 year)
  • General Chemistry with lab (1 year)
  • Organic Chemistry with lab (1 year)
  • Introductory Physics with lab (1 year)
  • College Algebra or Statistics (1 semester)
  • Biochemistry (1 semester)
  • Social science coursework: Anthropology, Economics, History, Political Science, Psychology, or Sociology (1 semester)
  • Upper level (defined as 300-400 level, junior-senior level coursework, and coursework that maps as upper-level by MSU transfer criteria) Biological sciences (1 semester); examples include coursework in (but not limited to):
      • Anatomy
      • Advanced Cell Biology
      • Embryology
      • Genetics
      • Immunology
      • Microbiology
      • Molecular Biology
      • Neuroscience
      • Physiology
      • Zoology
A grade of C (2.0 on 4-point scale) or higher must be achieved in order to meet prerequisite standards.

OPTION B: End-point Coursework Model

This option describes what courses need to be taken, but not the path to achieve the end point. Undergraduate institutions work with their students to help decide acceptable pathways to these end-point courses that may include (but are not limited to) traditional course requirements, condensed courses, novel curriculums, AP credit, and online course work.  A number of strongly recommended, but not required, courses are included in this option.

Any applicant selecting this option must document the required end-point courses that have been taken/planned as well as the list of pathway courses taken/planned that led to that end-point.  Applicants will also indicate which courses in the recommended areas have been taken and which ones are planned.

The following courses are required:
  1. Biological sciences: 1 semester of upper-level Biology; see option A for examples    
  2. Biochemistry: 1 semester
  3. Introductory Physics: 2nd semester
A grade of C (2.0 on 4-point scale) or higher must be achieved in order to meet prerequisite standards.

Additional coursework in traditional liberal arts divisions (science, humanities, and social sciences) outside Biology, Chemistry, and Physics is strongly recommended by the Committee on Admissions. Examples include coursework in (but not limited to):

  • Anthropology
  • Art
  • Classics
  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • English
  • Foreign Language
  • Math
  • Music
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Religious Studies
  • Sociology
  • Theater

OPTION C: Course Competency Maps Model

Applicants eligible for this admissions criteria option are limited to those enrolled at institutions with departments that have constructed course-competency maps which have been submitted to the College of Human Medicine and approved by the Committee on Admissions.

The current model for this option is derived from premedical competencies described in the 2010 Howard Hughes Medical Institute -Association of American Medical Colleges report, Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians.

To qualify for admission, an applicant must complete any combination of courses whose combined content has been mapped by its faculty to cover the 37 learning objectives from this report, which emphasize the following eight entry-level medical student competencies (See pages 22-35 for a description of all 37 prematriculation learning objectives).

  • E1-Apply quantitative reasoning and appropriate mathematics to describe or explain phenomena in the natural world.
  • E2-Demonstrate understanding of the process of scientific inquiry, and explain how scientific knowledge is discovered and validated.
  • E3-Demonstrate knowledge of basic physical principles and their applications to the understanding of living systems.
  • E4-Demonstrate knowledge of basic principles of chemistry and some of their applications to the understanding of living systems.
  • E5-Demonstrate knowledge of how biomolecules contribute to the structure and function of cells.
  • E6-Apply understanding of principles of how molecular and cell assemblies, organs, and organisms develop structure and carry out function.
  • E7-Explain how organisms sense and control their internal environment and how they respond to external change.
  • E8-Demonstrate an understanding of how the organizing principle of evolution by natural selection explains the diversity of life on earth.
A grade of C (2.0 on 4-point scale) must be achieved in all courses being used to demonstrate competencies in order to meet prerequisite standards.

OPTION D: Novel Curricular Tracks Model

Applicants eligible for this admissions criteria option are limited to those enrolled at institutions that have devised novel premedical curricula that have been submitted to the College of Human Medicine and approved by the Committee on Admissions.

For institutions interested in developing novel curriculum for its students, it is strongly advised that the basis of this curriculum be grounded in the liberal arts divisions of science, social science, and humanities.  The institution should provide commentary that explains how this novel curriculum integrates learning objectives which they believe provide competencies for entry-level medical students.

A grade of C (2.0 on 4-point scale) must be achieved in the novel curriculum coursework in order to meet prerequisite standards.

 

Conclusion

If you are thinking about a future career in medicine, develop a good relationship with your academic and/or pre-health advisor at your school.  Share with them the content of this blog and our website as early in your undergraduate studies as possible such that together you can determine which of these prerequisite course options are available at your school and will best serve your intellectual needs and special interests. 




Joel Maurer, MD, FACOG, is Assistant Dean for Admissions in the College of Human Medicine and Associate Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology at Michigan State University.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Letters of Evaluation: The Basics

Letters of evaluation are an important part of the ACMAS application and thus, the med school admissions process. Per the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), "A recommendation letter or letter of evaluation is a letter in which the author assesses the qualities, characteristics, and capabilities of the person being recommended/evaluated."

Admissions committees can learn a lot about an applicant beyond their metrics. Effective letters offer professional perspectives on an applicant's many diverse attributes and personal qualities. Truth is, the majority of medical school applicants from year to year have competitive grades and scores, so letters give insight into each individual's unique strengths and experiences.

In addition, letters of evaluation can highlight one's commitment to medicine through their service, research, and academic pursuits. Also helpful is the fact that other health professionals, academics, and/or mentors can vouch for those interests and capabilities.

So who are the people that you should consider to be your letter writers?
Think of who can best contribute to your application. The writers should be able to speak in depth about you, meaning someone who you've been engaged with for a consistent amount of time. In general, some ideas may include:

-Professors and other academic faculty (science and non-science)
-Research advisor
-Pre-med committees
-Employment Supervisors
-Volunteer Coordinators
-Health Professionals
-Mentors

There are certainly other possibilities but the key here is that they know you and your abilities well. The credentials of your writers are a factor, but should not take precedence over how well they can provide an accurate assessment of your suitability for medical school. Identify those who can best describe your strengths.

You'll need several writers.

Typically, medical schools will require a certain number of letters, which varies from school to school. The MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM) requires three letters with a maximum of five. Most schools will allow the same range, but some can allow up to six or more.

Along this line, schools may have additional guidelines to follow. For instance, the CHM Office of Admissions requests that one letter be from a basic science or medical science professor who can critically evaluate your academic potential, maturity, strengths and weaknesses, and the difficulty of coursework, if applicable. You can find more guidelines and information on our website's Letters of Evaluation page. There are also AAMC Letter of Evaluation guidelines that potential letter writers should review.

Potential traditional medical school applicants should start thinking about who can fill these roles towards your final year or two. Non-traditional applicants or those with extenuating circumstances who are prevented a letter from a basic science or medical science professor may be made an exception, if they can fulfill certain requirements and guidelines.

If you have taken time off between college and medical school, applicants to the MSU College of Human Medicine should also send a letter of evaluation from a person who can comment about experiences during that period.

Letters of evaluation must be submitted through the AMCAS Letters Service for all medical schools participating in the service. Instructions for submitting letters to AMCAS are provided within the AMCAS application. Unsolicited letters sent directly to CHM outside of the AMCAS Letters Service will not be reviewed and, instead, discarded. Once your letters are received by AMCAS, they will be sent to your designated schools.

There are three types of letters that can be submitted:
  • An individual letter is just that, written by and representing one author.
  • A committee letter can be provided by a pre-health committee or advisor to represent your undergraduate institution’s overall evaluation of you. Some schools have pre-health or pre-med committees, but others may not. With that said, some medical schools may require a committee letter from those applicants whose undergraduate institutions have a pre-health or pre-med committee.
  • A letter packet is a set of letters that can be compiled by several different options, including your institution or institution's career center.  In contrast to a committee letter, a letter packet does not include a single evaluative letter.

Something to note is that you should not add a separate entry for an individual letter if you have already included that letter within either a committee letter or packet. Also, committee letters and letter packets each count as one entry, though there will be separate notes from different sources.

Are you considering a dual-degree program? Applicants must submit letters as requested by these specific programs. Be sure to do your research.

There's a ton of additional information out there on letters, including this solid piece from Student Doctor Network. Brush up on how to acquire letter writers and be sure to pay attention to deadlines. On the other end, be courteous and give your letter writers a good amount of notice ahead of time. Obtaining solid letters requires time and planning.

Lastly, don't forget to thank your writers!

All in all, letters help fill in the gaps. Along with the personal statement, letters of evaluation can go a long way into making your application stand out.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Medical Partners in Public Health (MD-PH) Certificate Added to the Variety of CHM Special Programs

The MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM) hosts a number of special programs for students with a variety of ambitions. This fall, CHM will also give students the option to pursue a new certification.

The Medical Partners in Public Health Certificate is an option for College of Human Medicine students to gain clinical training in underserved community settings, with an emphasis on clinically relevant population level prevention and wellness.

Physician graduates of the MD-PH program will be able to apply public health principles as well as evidence and theory to better understand how to improve the health and well-being of their patients and the communities to which they belong.

This certificate complements the public health content in the CHM curriculum, enhancing the training with formal knowledge and skill in the core public health disciplines of epidemiology, biostatistics, health behavior and health education, public policy and administration and environmental health.

In addition to a formal blend of online, face-to-face, and community-based coursework, MD-PH students will also train through public health-focused community service and research. Experts in both public health and clinical medicine will train and advise program participants along the track.

Students who successfully finish the MD-PH certificate are eligible for credit towards a full MPH degree in MSU’s online program, should a continuation in public health training be desired.

 Please see our MD-PH page for more information and how to apply.

In addition to the MD-PH Certificate, CHM also offers three dual-degree options: the MD/PhD Program, the MD/MBA Program, and the full MD/MPH Program.

As the pioneer community-based medical school in the nation, the College of Human Medicine is embedded in communities across the state. Those pursuing public health disciplines at CHM have the benefit of community campuses and clinical sites serving an array of demographics.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Matched & Moving On: Graduating CHM Students Set For Residency Placements Across The Nation

It's graduation week for our seniors! But before the students put on their caps and gowns, the newest crop of Spartan M.D.'s are busy preparing for the next portion of their lives—residency.

The results of the 2016 residency match process are in for the MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM) graduating class. The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) reported results for CHM, which included early, advanced, and military matches.

As tradition, fourth-year students were joined by family and friends on "Match Day" across our community campuses to celebrate and learn where they matched.

The NRMP or, "The Match," places applicants for postgraduate medical training positions into residency programs at teaching hospitals throughout the United States.

The NRMP is a private, non-profit organization established at the request of medical students to provide an orderly and fair mechanism for matching the preferences of applicants for U.S. residency positions with the preferences of residency program directors.

Overall, 193 total graduating seniors sought residency positions. Of the 193, there were 187 students with residency placements confirmed through the NRMP, NRMP-SOAP, Military Match, Advanced Matches and Post SOAP.

Seeking residency positions in various specialties, 96.9% of CHM seniors secured placements—an increase from 96.2% in 2015.

Over 43% of the overall 2016 seniors are entering a primary care residency (i.e., Family Medicine, General Medicine, Medicine/Pediatrics, and Pediatrics).

The top seven overall specialty placements are as follows:
1. Pediatrics (30 graduates)
2. General Surgery (24 graduates)
3. Emergency Medicine (22 graduates)
4. Family Medicine (20 graduates)
5. Internal Medicine (20 graduates)
6. Obstetrics-Gynecology (14 graduates)
7. Internal Medicine/Pediatrics (11 graduates)

Anesthesiology, Dermatology, Neurology, Orthopedic Surgery, Psychiatry, and Pathology are also some of the specialties represented in the list of specialty choices.

Close to half (over 42%) will remain in Michigan for their residency training programs. This is an increase from last year as 36% of seniors remained in Michigan for residency in 2015. Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Ann Arbor, Royal Oak, Saginaw, and Flint are just some of the in-state areas that will be injected with new residents from CHM.


Students will also be training across the country at some of the most competitive residency programs in the nation. Graduates will also be headed across the nation from Rhode Island to California.

Beyond placing in major cities like Chicago, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Cleveland, New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Austin, New Orleans, Boston, San Diego, and Houston among others, students will also train in smaller metro and sometimes more rural areas as well. Spartan M.D.'s will also be headed to towns like Danville, PA; Hershey, PA; Lebanon, NH; Loma Linda, CA; Danbury, CT; Maywood, IL; Fort Gordon, GA; Charlottesville, VA; Rochester, MN; Falls Church, VA; and Peoria, IL.

Best wishes and good luck to the 2016 CHM graduates!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

After Acceptance: A User’s Guide to Preparing for Medical School

The summer before I started medical school at the College of Human Medicine (CHM), I often wondered what I was getting myself into.

What will med school be like? What will I learn? Will I be able to keep up? Would I still have a life? Will I embarrass myself in front of a bunch of medical professionals? What don’t I know that I need to know?

With (almost) two years of medical school down, I would tell all those who are about to matriculate (along with my past-self) to calm down.

Relax.

You will learn all that you need to know when you need to know it. You will be able to keep up. It may be hard, but it’s doable. Sure, it can be draining at times, but med school is still incredibly rewarding. You will be pushed, but you will grow.

So before you begin classes, the biggest thing you can do before starting med school is prepare while simply enjoying the process.

Here are five pieces of advice to help make the transition to med school a bit easier.

Relax and enjoy your last summer before med school!
It’s no secret that med school will take up a lot of your time. So if you have the time to relax this summer, do it!

Talking to a lot of my classmates, they all wish they had further enjoyed the time they had prior to starting med school. Before you get loaded down with lectures and coursepacks, do the things that make you happy! Travel, go to the lake, make art, cook, go camping, spend time with family and friends.


In my last summer before med school, I traveled around the US to spend time with family and friends—from Hawaii to LA, multiple trips to Chicago, and all over Michigan. I also spent a whole lot of time relaxing. One of my friends traveled all over Europe while another spent his summer being a camp counselor at his favorite camp.

Med school is about to push you like nothing has before, but you'll be okay. Don’t worry about learning anatomy and physiology ahead of the time. It's too much, and I promise you, you’ll learn it eventually.

I can’t say it enough, nor can all of the med students I asked: relax and take advantage of the time you have before starting med school!


Get in a routine.
Amidst all your hardcore relaxing, it may be helpful to get into a routine. At the least, this will be important towards the end of the summer.

You’re about to have a lot of 8am classes and required events. If waking up before then is hard for you, it may not be a bad idea to try to condition your body to an early wake time.

That being said, you’ll find your routine once med school starts as well. Don’t worry if it takes time—it took me a few months to learn that I can’t study much past 8pm, being the grandma that I am.

I know now not to push the studying too late, as I won’t be as productive as I can be when it’s 7am. On the flip side, some would rather study until 2am or later and sleep in when they can. Everyone has a different framework of studying and you’ll find your groove.

For some people, it may also be helpful to plan time for things that are important to them. Getting into the habit of going to the gym daily or for a run every other day (for the more relaxation-inclined) can help motivate you to keep those schedules up once school starts.


Find meals that you enjoy making or cooking. Experiment with larger dishes so you can eat leftovers for the next few days and save yourself some time.


Find a place to live—but don't stress!
Finding housing can be stressful, but you’re not alone.

Just take the time to look into all of your options. Ask about where med students live to get some ideas. Find what fits into your budget and will make you the most comfortable, especially when you’re stressed and have had a long day at school.

Is living nearby a coffee shop or Panera important? Does living with roommates give you motivation or does living solo help keep you sane?

There are so many options around both Grand Rapids and East Lansing that you do not have to worry.

Being at the Grand Rapids campus myself, I can say that you have plenty of time to find a place to live around here. Many apartment buildings won’t even know what they'll have available until 1-2 months ahead of time, so you’re definitely not behind the ball.

I found out that I was placed at the Grand Rapids campus in mid-June, and I was able to find housing in early/mid-July. I was stressed and thought I was going to struggle finding housing before matriculating in less than two months. Yet after checking out some options, I found my apartment in less than three weeks.


Set up a budget.
After talking with some fellow med students, some of them wish they had come up with more of a budget before starting med school. This is extremely helpful when figuring out how much loan money to take out.

It may be hard to know what your budget will be exactly, but you can try to estimate your monthly costs based on housing, food, bills, and other necessities/wants (travel, gym membership, shopping, movies, football games, etc.).

By estimating a budget, you can have a better estimate for how much loan money you want to add to your running debt each semester. If you take too much out, you can always carry that over to the next semester or choose what you wish with it. If you take out too little, the Office of Financial Aid can often find ways to reimburse the money you didn’t originally take out or other loans that might apply.

Speaking of the Office of Financial Aid, always give them a call or stop by their office if you have any questions. They are more than willing to help you figure out your loans or how to budget your expenses.

Of special importance, ask them if you forget when loans will be dispersed. Many students often forget that loans aren’t dispersed until it’s within 10 days of school starting. For example, if you need to start paying rent on the 1st of August, loans are not dispersed until mid-August, so that is important to keep in mind when making a budget.

This is also relevant when it comes time to pay for January rent because students forget loans aren’t dispersed until the first or second week of the month. So, just keep an eye on your budget and when that loan money will officially be in your hands.


Look into a variety of specialties.
Diving into medical school, you’re going to meet everyone along the spectrum of “I’m going to be a surgeon!” to “I have no clue what I want to be.”

Let me make it clear: it’s great if you already know what you want to do. It's also great if you don’t know what you want to do.

Med school is about learning which specialties interest you and which don't. If you are dying to be pro-active before med school (and I repeat, you do not have to start studying yet!), take some time to look into different specialties.

I didn’t know that the field of Pediatric Developmental Disabilities even existed when I started medical school, but now I know that’s what I want to pursue. Look at the lifestyle, hours, salary, locations, residency and/or fellowship lengths, and try to shadow or talk to a physician in a field that interests you.

You’ll have plenty of time to figure this out in med school, but it never hurts to be curious.

Hopefully these recommendations can be helpful for incoming students. But honestly, there’s nothing I can say to truly prepare a student for medical school. Everyone experiences it differently.

It will be hard at times. You will feel drained at times. You will be stressed at times. But it is extremely rewarding.

You will learn an incredible amount of material. Not only that, you will learn how to interact with patients and how to be a compassionate, hardworking, dedicated physician.

You will be surrounded by an amazing community of medical students, faculty, staff, mentors, and alumni. You will still have a life and find ways to prioritize making time for what’s important.

And yes, you will probably embarrass yourself many times--in front of your classmates, patients, doctors, and a whole bunch of medical professionals. All you can do is learn from it, correct any mistakes you made, and maybe have a little laugh at yourself.

Speaking from experience, there’s not much else you can do when you pass out while shadowing, is there?

Sheri VanOmen is a second-year College of Human Medicine student from West Michigan. This year, Sheri is lending her voice to the Office of Admissions' SpartanMD blog to periodically offer tips on the admissions process as well as an inside look at what being a CHM student is all about. Also read her previous posts, From "Far Off' Place To Medical School and Coming Back To Reality—A Time For Reflection.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Overcoming Rejection: Tips On How To Deal with Disappointment & Strengthen Your Application

For most medical schools across the country, the 2015-2016 cycle interview period has come to a close. The next incoming class is starting to take shape and, unfortunately, that means some applicants must deal with rejections.

Here are some steps to take so that you may alleviate the disappointment and use the time going forward on strengthening your application for the next cycle.

Acknowledgement
In medical school admissions, rejection is just part of the process. In fact, being rejected is pretty common. Tens of thousands submit applications each year for an increasingly limited number of seats. The competition is stiff, with the vast majority of U.S. medical schools offering less than 200 open slots per incoming class.

Less than 40% of applicants in the prior cycle matriculated, according to data from the American Association of Medical Colleges.

While rejection can be disheartening, it's important to come to terms with the circumstance quickly. Don't allow the shock of rejection to turn into complacency, nor should it turn into a devaluation of self-worth. It is not uncommon for applicants to go through the application cycle two, even three times before matriculating. It certainly can be done.

In fact, those who take steps to improve their applications and then reapply greatly improve their chances of success. Plenty of students who matriculate are actually reapplicants. Schools like our own encourage applicants to try again.

Perseverance can go a long way moving forward. Start taking notes from this experience—those will come in handy when working on your new personal statement and essays. 

Reflection and Self-Assessment
Those notes will be most helpful after some reflection. Applicants must first decide whether to go through the application process another time. In other words, are you willing to do it all over again?

Rejected applicants should take time to decide whether medical school is still a goal. Gauge your desire to become a physician.

If you are ready and willing to move forward with medical school still in your sights, it's crucial to acknowledge that your profile as an applicant must undergo a few tweaks. Self-awareness about your standing in the applicant pool is vital to bouncing back strongly.

Take a thorough look at your application and recognize which portions can be improved. Your personal statement, grades and scores, interviewing skills, letters of recommendation as well as volunteer experiences and clinical exposure are all areas to reevaluate.

Think about how well your essays were written and whether they, along with your grades, demonstrated your aptitude and skills effectively. Could you have done better on the MCAT? If you were effective enough to receive interview invites, did it go well?

Once you have looked at your application, ask others for input. You may be able to meet with admissions representatives to go over where you can strengthen your application. While many schools do not give specifics as to why you were rejected, this information can be extremely helpful.

The College of Human Medicine (CHM), for example, offers a Self-Assessment Guide. Upon submission, rejected applicants can then schedule an advising appointment to meet directly with Office of Admissions counselors.

This process will help you identify which areas of your application need further attention. Reapplying to medical school means changing your approach for the next cycle. If an​ applicant isn't ready to learn from what didn't work and try a new approach, they might not be ready for med school.

Executing A Plan
Having identified where you can strengthen your application, you can now develop a plan and execute. Reapplicants must take some action that will show improvement.

If you lacked volunteer experience or clinical exposure, for instance, the summer is a great time to put in, well, time. If your grades are an issue, decisions on a post-bacc program or graduate school may need to be made before reapplying.

Make sure you understand that medical schools may require a minimum number of graduate credits before they allow applicants to submit those grades for review. Here at CHM, we will only review graduate courses if the applicant meets the 16-credit minimum. This means you may need a year or two before you reapply.

Ensure that you take enough time for study and preparation if you need to retake the MCAT. It may be worth it to take courses in public speaking or interpersonal communication if you think that could better prepare you for another round of interviews.

However your plan shapes up, don't be afraid to seek out help if you feel it can be productive. With that said, recognize your plan may take time. Applicants are expected to put their best foot forward when they apply so taking another year to strengthen your application may be necessary.

A lot of rejected applicants never reapply. So it is those reapplicants with perseverance and a strong work ethic than can ultimately meet their goal. With some introspection, a subsequent plan moving forward, and some perseverance, the next cycle may be yours to conquer.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the admissions process and other admissions-related topics. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

CHM Admissions Hosting Virtual Chat On Thursday

The MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM) Office of Admissions is hosting a virtual chat this Thursday, March 3rd from 4pm to 7pm EST. This online discussion supplements our participation in the AAMC Medical School Virtual Fair, held by the American Association of Medical Colleges this past February.

Students can register for the chat at the Virtual Fair webpage—instructions will follow upon registration. Those who already registered for last month's event need only log back in and join us on our dedicated page.

Admissions representatives will be joined by several current students, who will all be on hand to take questions on the admissions process, premedical requirements, application tips, special programs, student life, and everything in between.

Registrants will also find several videos on our page that offer a deeper look into life at CHM, starting with a word of welcome from Dr. Joel Maurer, Associate Dean for Admissions.

The Office of Admissions' continued efforts to be accessible to potential applicants through various events and initiatives include last month's virtual fair. CHM was among 25 medical schools to participate in the online "meeting" with over 8000 registrants.

The Office of Admissions also hosted it's first Twitter Chat this past Fall and are in the works to host a second Twitter Chat some time in the late Spring. The admissions team is also hosting our Spring Premedical Day this month at the Secchia Center in Grand Rapids, offering in-depth workshops and informative panel Q&A's for attendees.

Register for the MSU College of Human Medicine Office of Admissions Virtual Chat

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the virtual chat and other admissions-related events.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Doctors In The Making: Pipeline Program Guides Health Professionals of Tomorrow

Now full steam ahead into its second year, the MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM) Health Careers Pipeline Program is about more than just career exploration, pairing high school students from Grand Rapids with pre-med/pre-professional undergraduate mentors.

The program focuses on academic preparation for students considering future careers in medical fields through rich mentoring from current undergraduate and medical students, as well as focused lessons and field trips.

Spearheaded by CHM Admissions Counselor, Brian Ulrich, MA, the College of Human Medicine is partnering with Grand Rapids Central High School and Grand Valley State University (GVSU) undergraduates.

With assistance from current CHM students, each pair bonds over eight winter weeks of participation at the CHM Secchia Center and around Grand Rapids. Current CHM students assist with weekly activities and hold an active role in program development and mentoring. Sessions include meeting with local medical professionals, discussing career topics with various physicians, therapists, researchers, and nurses among others.

The program utilizes many available resources to cover various aspects of health, even beyond career exploration. For example, one of the sessions last year was held at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, where a nutritionist led the session to offer tips for healthy eating on a budget. Hands-on at the Downtown Market's teaching kitchen, participants cooked up a few easy recipes before enjoying the dishes for dinner.

Participants enjoyed learning (and eating) some healthy, easy recipes at the Downtown Market

Per Ulrich: "One of the reasons that this is needed is that there is a lack of programs that exist for the sole purpose of identifying and developing students whose aspiration or access to careers within the health professions may be compromised given economic, geographic, or educational disadvantage. Therefore, we designed this program with the explicit intent of having elements of career exploration and personal growth for this group of students."

Over the last two decades, the health industry has grown exponentially in the Grand Rapids-metro area. With the College of Human Medicine's expansion to downtown Grand Rapids' "medical mile" in 2010, the time was ripe for the College to take another step in engaging the community and fostering potential health professionals.

By many accounts, the initial year of the collaboration was a great success. First-year participants like Yunis Eyamba, then a senior at Central High School, thought the benefits were clear.

"This [program] really opens people's eyes, for those who don't know much about health and the medical field. It opened us up to different things out there. When most people think of medicine, they think of hospitals, which can be scary. But there are different things to learn about and many different people in different medical roles that can help you," Eyamba explained.

Now in his third year as a College of Human Medicine student, Chad Parkes shared Eyamba's enthusiasm. Parkes was one of the several CHM students to participate.

"I think for both groupsthe college and high school studentsexposure is the main thing. I look back to myself as a high school student and I knew I wanted to go into medicine. Yet all my exposure was from my own appointments or appointments I'd gone to with my brother, who has cerebral palsy. So really getting themselves out here and pursuing their interests so soon is a big thing for the high school students as well as the college students," Parkes said.

CHM students Chad Parkes and Taylor Argo assisted with weekly activities

For Eyamba, her interest in medicine started with television. Eyamba would like to be a pediatrician one day. If not a pediatrician, she's considering being a physician's assistant or neonatal therapist.

"When I was younger, I watched the Cosby Show and he was a pediatrician. So I'm like, 'I want to be that!' I was really close with my pediatrician and was able to see her a lot. So now I love helping people."

Learning how to help others is just one aspect of the program that drew the GVSU students to want to participate. While they, themselves, get to interact and learn more about medicine, they also play a big role in the guidance of their high school counterparts. It's the best of both worlds.

"When I came into this program I felt like it was going to be mostly me teaching my mentee about what college is like. But as I went through the program I found myself learning tons of new things about the field of medicine and how there is no cookie-cutter mold for how you get there," said John Wesley, now in his third year at GVSU. 

"All these careers, visiting the CHS (Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences) building, learning about the physical therapy programs, all the hundreds of careers in nursing that I had no idea about beforethat was just absolutely fantastic. I felt like, while I did provide some guidance for my mentee, I myself was also being guided," Wesley added.

For Mariah Hampton, now a junior at GVSU who also participated last year, the session that stuck with her was the group's trip to the Van Andel Research Center.

"We got to hear a post-doc talk about his research along with some of the history of the place and the opportunities they have for students. That was really outstanding to me because my major is biomedical sciences. Now, I want to be a physician but I'm also interested in exploring the research side because that's important. I think that people are making discoveries everyday right here in Grand Rapids," she said.

Students received tours of several facilities, including the Secchia Center's Clinical Skills and Simulation Suites

Parkes believes that's one of the program's greater perks.

"What's going to benefit them the most is they really get going on that track of, 'What do I want do in the future?' and 'What are the steps I need to take in order to do that?' Maybe this has opened their minds to more medical fields they didn't know existed," Parkes continued.

Still, what surprised him the most was the direction the young students were already taking.

"I knew I wanted to be a doctor but I didn't really uncover what I wanted to do until late in college when I needed to apply. But the first day of this pipeline program, the high school students were going around the room and saying, 'I want to be a neurosurgeon.' That blew my mind! Just to see that passion and how driven these students already are, I think this program helps them see that next level."

That next level is naturally college. Having mentors who are currently in undergraduate programs benefits both groups.

Hampton understands well how that relationship benefited her and her high school mentee.

"During the first week, when it started out, we were all kind of in our shells. She's kind of an introvert, much like me. So breaking her out of her shell was the first step, really. Once we established some common ground, we really got to know each other better.  She got more comfortable asking me questions, which I appreciated," Hampton explained.

"I'm really sad that the program is ending. I'll probably do it again next year just because of that. I liked seeing her eyes open to more options. She came in with a one-track mindshe wanted to be a nurse and work in the clinicsand now she's thinking, "I need to see what else is out there for me."

And that right there, for Ulrich, is the whole purpose.

"We recognized the importance of reaching out to youth in the communities in which we have a presence. In particular, we wanted to offer an opportunity in which students could interact with us and see that they can do this. We don’t want to simply be an ivory tower, but a place that welcomes the exploration of medicine and opens a door towards careers in the health sciences."

For more information on the Health Career Pipeline Program, please see the program's webpage.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Student Post: Coming Back To Reality—A Time For Reflection

Transitioning back from winter break is never easy. I would even dare say it gets harder as the years of schooling accumulate. Coming back for my second semester of being an M2, there is a whole new level of fun that becomes increasingly real with each day: Step 1*.

Every M2 is enjoying the added stress that studying for "boards" brings, on top of the already-busy schedule of studying for domain exams and other classes. This is, of course, beyond other extracurricular activities we hope to incorporate, such as research, volunteering, exercise, and sleep.

But the thing is, we all find our own ways to accomplish what is important to us. And while some days may be rough, it’s crazy to think about how far we have already come in just a year and a half.

Despite the stress that comes from being in medical school, I have many fond memories at the CHM. There are so many opportunities to get involved, such as with student interest groups and electives.

I explored Emergency Medicine through the Emergency Medicine Interest Group and practiced my medical Spanish skills through an elective called “Health Care Interviewing of Spanish-Speaking Patients.”

Through shadowing experiences, I’ve learned which specialties I am more intrigued by…and others not so much.

Being on Student Council, our big event of the year was putting on the annual Med Ball. We worked for about four months and planned out a special evening for the students, faculty, and staff. It was fun seeing everything come together—from the decorations to music to class superlatives, including best dancers, best dressed, and most likely to NURS (an acronym for patient support: Name, Understand, Respect, Support).

One of my favorite parts was seeing all of the Med Follies that our class produced! These hilarious parodies were about life as a CHM med student. Even the faculty and staff represented with their own Med Follies! I had such a fun night with my classmates dancing the night away.

There is a whole array of CHM events that happen beyond campus as well. Over the summer, I had the opportunity to go to Peru with a group of 14 students from CHM for a few weeks. It was hands-down one of my favorite CHM experiences. In fact, it was one of my favorite summers, overall.

We shadowed in both private urban hospitals and the rural provinces learning about the Peruvian healthcare system from different sides. We had the chance to observe and volunteer with cleft palate surgeries in the rural provinces of CaƱete, where we also held many dental campaigns in different schools and towns to educate children and adults about oral hygiene and distribute toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss. It was truly incredible to interact with the people of Peru and learn about their culture, food, and values.

LMU students worked hand-in-hand with local medical professionals in Peru
After the program ended, our group of students went on a five-day hike, sleeping in tents, climbing up and down mountains, ending at the beautiful Machu Picchu.

You definitely bond with your classmates when you all have to struggle against the steep uphills, pee in the middle of nowhere, swim in the hot springs, and combat the sweat and mosquitos together. And yet, it was such an unforgettable hike. The entire trip was an unbelievable experience with a great group of fellow med students.

LMU students at Machu Picchu
While there are many good memories I’ve had at CHM, my favorite aspect of CHM by far is our community of students, faculty, and staff. When prospective students ask our current med students what drew them to CHM, they find that the first thing most of us will say is the community.

Everyone is so encouraging and respectful of each other. There’s always a positive vibe despite the madness of studying. Many students share their study guides, resources, tips, and advice because we all want our class as a whole to do well on our assessments.

Even more so, the faculty and staff make a huge effort to teach and motivate us. They continuously make themselves available for help or assistance because they genuinely want us to do well and always ask for feedback to figure out the best ways to assist our learning.

One of my most meaningful memories was when an anatomy professor took extra time out of her day to walk through the anatomy lab with me. I hadn’t had anatomy before and I wasn’t initially comfortable around the cadavers. She took time out of her schedule to meet with me outside of class to familiarize and desensitize me to the cadavers, while simultaneously talking about being respectful of the deeply personal donation these people had made to our training. That is one of many examples of how the faculty and staff go above and beyond for their students to help them succeed.

Reflecting on some of my best memories and experiences at CHM reminds me how fortunate I am to be part of a great medical school. It motivates me to continue the push when the school load is hard and heavy, especially as Step 1 slowly creeps up on us.

*Step 1 is the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), which assesses whether medical school students can apply the necessary concepts that are needed to continue medical training. It's also referred to as "boards" or "The Boards."



Sheri VanOmen is a second-year College of Human Medicine student from West Michigan. This year, Sheri is lending her voice to the Office of Admissions blog to periodically offer an inside look at what being a student at CHM is all about. Also read her previous post, "From "Far Off" Place To Medical School." 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Waitlisted Applicants May Submit Updates, Additional Materials

There are five main steps to get through the entire medical school application process. Upon submitting your secondary application to the MSU College of Human Medicine (CHM), the Assistant Dean for Admissions will review select factors and applicants will either be deemed unsuccessful, placed on hold, or invited to interview.

As part of the selection process, one of the outcomes from the committee on admissions after interviewing can be the waitlist. Schools may also refer to this as the alternate list. While it's not the ideal outcome you'd like to initially hear, there are steps you can take moving forward.

Last year, we wrote a post entitled, "So You've Been Placed on the Waitlist: What's Next?," that offers some good tidbits. 

If you are placed on the alternate list, your file will remain under consideration for acceptance until we notify you of a change in your status. One of the actions you can take is to submit additional information or, in other words, updates.

Please note that per CHM policy, only applicants who are placed on the alternate list may submit updates. This may not be the case at other schools as policies may differ.

Some schools may accept updates from all of their applicants. Schools may only accept updates within a specific time frame. CHM applicants who are waitlisted may submit updates at any time prior to a final decision.

Additional and/or updated grades, new clinical, volunteer, and/or research experiences, additional letters of evaluation, and a letter of continued interest are all suitable updates.

Ultimately, updates don't need to be major achievements but should be new developments beyond what's already been established in your primary and secondary applications. Highlight new experiences and accomplishments.

Remember that the goal is to sell yourself. Good luck!