Flexible Intersessions Enable Students to Pursue Personal Interests, Strengthen Areas of Difficulty
The Shared Discovery Curriculum (SDC) is a very different curriculum. Of the many ways it differs from your more traditional medical school curricula, the SDC enhances the learning-through-experience mode of training by including personal learning plans.
Intersessions are one of the ways each student can customize their experience at the College of Human Medicine. A series of focused topic study courses, Intersessions provide an opportunity for students to dive into particular areas of strength, weakness, and/or interest.
Each intersession schedule is tailored to the student.
These four-week mini-courses fill in the gaps between the Early Clinical Experience (ECE) and the Middle Clinical Experience (MCE) as well as the MCE and Late Clinical Experience (LCE) prior to the USMLE Step 1 Exam.
"This is different than other medical training programs in that you get to choose what you want to take, which is great because every student is unique! We come from various academic backgrounds and therefore have different strengths and weaknesses," says rising second-year student, Harminder Sandhu.
Having completed his first set of Intersessions, we enjoyed a brief conversation with Harminder, our student contributor, about his experience.
Tell us more about the Intersessions. There are different types, correct?
The first set of intersessions following ECE consists of three intersessions, each intersession lasting a month. Within each intersession, we choose two courses.
There are three types of Intersessions: Core Intersessions, Foundation intersessions, and Advanced Intersessions. Core intersessions are courses required by every student. Foundation Intersessions are exactly what the name implies—they provide foundation in a subject you may feel you need to focus on (i.e. Anatomy, Microbiology). Advanced intersessions are courses that allow you to dig deeper into an area of interest (i.e. Nutrition or Radiology).
One of the courses I chose to take was Clinical Prosection. I chose the head/neck as my area of interest.
This was such a cool experience. It gave me a much deeper respect for facial reconstructive surgeons. The head and neck are so complex—so many nerves!
It was definitely worth it. It gave me the opportunity to expand my knowledge of head/neck anatomy substantially because I was working with a real specimen as opposed to a two-dimensional image in a text book. Heading into second year, I definitely feel more comfortable with anatomy thanks to this intersession.
So they serve more than just as a bridge between clinical experiences. You clearly enjoyed it.
Personally, I felt that the Intersession portion was, so far, one of my favorite periods in medical school. This sentiment seemed to be shared by many of my classmates. There was so much more flexibility because each student is only taking two classes a month. Wait, two classes? For a month?
I did enjoy it.
The Progress Suite of Assessments allows both faculty and students to quickly identify where each student is encountering difficulties. How can students use this time to address that?
I'll give an example: Student A may have had an extensive background in anatomy. Perhaps they were a TA for anatomy in their undergraduate program. This student may go through first year of medical school and feel that anatomy was a breeze. On the other hand, this student may not be the most confident in Microbiology.
In contrast, Student B may have never taken anatomy before and felt overwhelmed throughout first year, yet felt comfortable with Microbiology. Student A can choose Microbiology as one of their courses for intersession while Student B can choose to take Anatomy.
By the end of Intersessions, we will have been able to focus on strengthening our portfolio.
But it sounds like Intersessions allow students the opportunity to do more than just address weaknesses. The different types of Intersessions give students a variety of directions from which to decide.
As I mentioned, Intersessions seem to be a time most of us enjoyed, yes, because it offered a lot of flexibility. Flexibility in what we wanted to study by allowing us to focus on areas of weakness as well as interest.
But it was also flexible in terms of scheduling. I felt that I definitely had more time to focus on myself. It even allowed us to enjoy the beautiful Michigan summer weather if we wished.
For the Intersessions following MCE, students can even take a Boards review-type course to help them further prepare for Step 1. It's nice to have that freedom.
The consensus among my classmates was that Intersessions allowed us to make up ground, if needed, and be overall stronger students heading into second year of medical school.
Questions or comments about the Intersessions can be directed to: SDC Questions: Intersessions.
Harminder Sandhu is a second-year College of Human Medicine student from California. As an Office of Admissions blog contributor, Harminder offers an inside look at the college from the student perspective. Read more of Harminder's posts.