August 17, 2016

Preparing for a new year in undergraduate medical education

Written by
It’s an exciting time in undergraduate medical education. Since I took over the role of Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education just over a year ago, I’ve had the pleasure to work with to oversee all aspects of medical education at the School of Medicine. I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you new developments going on in the SOM, including leadership recruitments and changes, the expansion of service learning programs and the welcoming of a new class of medical students.

Class of 2020

The new student class officially joined the SOM three weeks ago, coming to campus on Monday, July 25 for the first day of orientation. They spent the week getting to know their fellow classmates, being sorted into their Learning Communities and learning the ins and outs of beginning med school from faculty and staff in the offices of Medical Student Services and Undergraduate Medical Education, before beginning their first class, called Patient, Doctor and Society and being formally welcomed at the White Coat Ceremony.

The 186 students in the class represent 16 home states, attended 53 colleges and 52 degrees of study. The class includes 104 men and 82 women; 17 student s who are underrepresented minorities in medicine and 44 students from rural Alabama.

I am excited to welcome these students to medical school and to the beginning of their medical training.

Service Learning and Learning Communities

The Offices of Undergraduate Medical Education and Medical Student Services are continuing the rollout of the Learning Communities, the small groups led by faculty mentors that serve as a home base for students throughout their medical school career.  Between 60 and 72 students are assigned per community, divided between the first-, second-, third- and fourth-year classes. Students are assigned to a learning community based on their clinical campus assignments and will stay with the same community throughout their four years of medical school.  

The 11 LCs are playing a part in the medical school curriculum as a way for faculty mentors to teach topics well suited for small-group discussions, such as health disparities, ethics and interprofessional teamwork. The communities also give the students opportunities for faculty mentorship, peer mentorship and social activities. Dr. Caroline Harada, the assistant dean for Community-Engaged Scholarship; Jason Noah, director of Student Life and Learning Communities, and the faculty mentors are doing a great job as the communities continue to evolve and become a larger part of the curriculum.

Leadership changes

As you may have read, a new team has been appointed to lead the admissions process. Dr. Nathan Smith, who led the admissions office for 15 years, retired as the assistant dean for Admissions in late July. We greatly appreciate Dr. Smith's service and dedication to the SOM and its students during his leadership of the Admissions Office. 

Because this is a large role to fill in an interim capacity, the school leadership created a plan to split the role into three positions that address different areas of the admissions pipeline.  Dr. John Woods, assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and director of OB/Gyn Simulation, is leading the interim admissions team and managing external relationships; Dr. Shawn Galin, associate professor of Medicine and director of the Clinical Skills Center, manages the pre-interview admissions stage and chairs the admissions committee; and Dr. Lanita Carter, assistant professor of Medical Education and director of the Office of Medical Education and Student Services at the Huntsville Regional Medical Campus, leads the peri- and post-interview stage and chairs the Admissions Selection Committee.  These three will guide the admissions process through the duration of a national search to secure a new associate dean for admissions.

We have also been searching internally for an assistant dean for Clinical Education, a new position to help us better utilize resources to meet the same educational objectives for clinical skills development across our four campuses. We have identified the leader for this new position, and will be announcing it in the upcoming weeks.