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Didactic Years and Team-Based Learning in Health Professional School: Preparing to be a Lifelong Learner

Applying to health professional school can be daunting. There are pre-requisite courses, standardized tests, essay questions, and of course – interviews. It can be easy to forget what health professional school is really all about: gaining expertise in a subject area, and becoming a professional. Throughout all of this, one of the most important skills you’ll develop along the way is the ability to learn. Traditional programs can be thought of in two parts: didactic years and practical years. In medicine, didactic years are the first two years of classwork, spent learning about anatomy and complex pathophysiology. These are followed by practical years, two years in the clinic learning the practical application of your knowledge from the first two years. The skills you need to succeed in both environments – academic, and practical – are very different. Didactic years test your ability to absorb vast amounts of information, and demonstrate your knowledge on a multiple-choice exam. Practical years test your ability to build rapport with your team, and your ability to contextualize the information you’ve absorbed. Both sets of skills are important, but once you graduate, what do you really need to succeed in your future career? It comes down to your ability to learn independently. Times change, our understanding of complex pathophysiology deepens, legal precedents are set and broken. Your team, and your role on that team, will change – even the fundamental organizational structure of a hospital can change. Staying ahead of the curve won’t be easy, but it will be a part of your job. To become a leader in your field, you need to first... read more

Dressing for the Medical, Dental, or PA Interview

Whether you are interviewing for medical/PA school or your future job, you need to look the part. Applicants receive points for and against their attire, so your clothes will be noticed. No, maybe attire isn’t the reason you will get into the school of your choice, but it can certainly be a negative mark on your file. Don’t let one outfit be the reason all your hard work is ignored. In fact, appearing ‘polished’ can help highlight some of your ‘real’ achievements, and make you seem like a much stronger candidate! Below are a few tips from someone who has survived the process and lived to tell the tale. Yes, you have to wear a suit. It’s far better to blend in that to be the “girl who came in the sweater” (actual quote from a faculty member). Men, the usual suit is fine with a tie and don’t forget a belt. Women, if you’re going to wear a skirt suit, ensure the skirt stays at your knee when sitting. Wear comfortable and appropriate shoes. Do not wear heels unless you know how to walk in them. You will be completing a tour at some point on your interview and you need to be able to keep up with the crowd. Men definitely wear plain socks with your dress shoes. If you’re not going to wear plain ones, make them interesting! My old program director loved to tell the story of how she couldn’t forget one of her applicants because of his socks. Now, it’s not the reason he was accepted, but not a bad thing to be remembered... read more

An Overview of the Dental School Curriculum

By J Lin, DMD You’re finally a dental student, congratulations! Now the next step–getting that dental degree. There will be many hoops to jump through before you receive your doctorate. Let’s set you up for success early and give you a rundown on what to expect both clinically and didactically during your years as a dental student. Year One (D1): Standard curriculum includes basic sciences such as anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, microbiology, etc. These will be tested on the first board exam (NBDE part I). Students are also exposed to introductory dental classes including dental anatomy, head and neck anatomy, cariology, evidence based dentistry, etc. On the pre-clinical side, students will enter the simulation lab to wax-up teeth to supplement the dental anatomy didactic class. Hand skills for certain dental procedures will also be taught in the sim lab. Anatomy labs may involve dissecting or viewing models to learn head and neck anatomy (and sometimes gross anatomy). While some schools frontload the basic sciences so students can take NBDE part I in the summer after D1, some schools wait until D2 has been completed. Year Two (D2): If a school waits until after D2 for students to take the NBDE part I, then the basic science curriculum will continue into year two. Added to the curriculum will be introductory dental classes (restorative, endodontics, periodontics, pediatrics, prosthodontics, oral surgery, etc). More advanced hand skills will be developed in sim lab classes to complement the didactic knowledge gained. For most schools, before a student is allowed to officially enter clinic and actively treat patients, he or she will need to have completed... read more

Medical student success and 3rd year rotations

How to succeed as a medical student on third year rotations When you are in medical school, much of your application to residency will be based on your performance on the third year clinical rotations. The most helpful thing to keep in mind is simply to put yourself in those people’s shoes who are evaluating you. Thus, we provide a brief guide to who is evaluating you and what they would want in a medical student.  1. Intern: The intern is trying to take care of the minutiae involved in the hospitalizations of up to 10 patients at the same time.  Anything that you can do to make his or her life easier will be much appreciated. This means really knowing the patients that you are assigned, allowing the intern to be less involved in that patient’s care and thus spread less thin. There are a lot of mundane tasks involved in taking care of patients, including getting outside records, figuring out how to send complex labs, etc. Help the intern out and he will love you. However, also appreciate that interns are very busy, so avoid the trap of being the “over-eager” medical student who pesters the intern with excessive numbers of complex questions purely to show interest or hovers behind them repeatedly asking “what can I do for you next.” 2. Resident: The resident is the de facto mind of the team and is there to make sure the patients are getting proper medical care. He is also demonstrating to the attending that he knows what he is doing. Before you present to the attending remember to... read more

What to consider when choosing MD PhD programs

By the Editorial Board As with any decision this sizeable, with MD PhD programs, there is no one right way of going about choosing which institution to attend, but here are some things to think about:  1) Location: Most MD PhD programs take 7-10 years to complete. That’s a significant chunk of your life, nearly 10%. So while you have to balance a lot of things when making your decision, think whether you want to live somewhere during a period of your life where you might enter single but leave married. When you interview, we encourage you to consider spending an extra day walking around town at programs you are seriously considering.  2) Clinical Program: Most MD PhD applicants come to the application process with a very research-oriented mindset. They look up labs, PubMed professors, and so on. That is all certainly important, but don’t neglect evaluating the clinical program as well. The reality is that you will be spending nearly 50% of your time as an MD student. Consider the following: Is the school pass-fail? Is the curriculum a block schedule? How much problem-based learning is involved? Are the medical students satisfied with their experience? It’s important to make sure that you will be happy with your clinical training.  3) Research Years Support: This can vary widely between institutions and can truly affect your experience, so ask about these details. How are you funded during your PhD years? PIs love students who are essentially “free” to them and are supported through a medical scientist training program (MSTP) rather than their own grants. Thus guaranteed PhD support means you will... read more

Working as a Medical Assistant Before PA School – A Student’s Experience

By Jillian K. – Incoming PA Student When I first started researching prerequisites for PA school, I was daunted by the number of clinical hours that were required to make me a competitive candidate amongst an extremely qualified applicant pool. At the time, I was working in an infectious disease laboratory. To my dismay, I discovered that most schools listed the kind of work I did as one which they would not count towards clinical experience. I gave into the fact that I would need to find a position, either volunteer or paid, that would allow me to work directly with patients. I quickly ruled out volunteering as a means of obtaining clinical experience. Although I believe the various volunteer positions I held largely contributed to my PA school acceptance, volunteering in a clinical setting would not have allowed me to acquire the hands-on experience for which I was looking. I decided I would have to quit my laboratory job and get a new position in a clinical setting. As I poured over employment ads, I discovered that every entry-level position, working with patients, required some sort of certification. Refusing to let the obstacles stand in the way of entering PA school, I explored different certificate programs at community colleges nearest me. I was first interested in a CNA program because the certification would have only taken a couple of months to complete. Since I support myself financially, I decided that the pay of a CNA would not be feasible for my budget. I had to continue working full-time, and eventually found a medical assistant program that would allow... read more

Non-Verbal Cues to be Aware of for Your Medical, Dental, Pharmacy or PA School Interview Part 2

By Sanam Darougar Farshidi In the first part of this entry, we discussed how the importance of confidence and appearing low-maintenance as important non-verbal communication tactics in the health professional school interview.  Here we will consider other factors, including how your appearance can affect the impression you leave on the medical school, dental school, pharmacy school, or PA school admissions committee: Dress the Part The costume designer Edith Head once famously said, “You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it”.  Although things like clothing and accessories, makeup, and hair styles seem superfluous to many, the fact remains that our appearance speaks volumes to everyone we encounter in our lives. Studies have shown that people who take the time to take care of their personal appearance are perceived to be smarter and more confident than those who don’t.  While this may not seem like a fair guideline for evaluating a candidate’s capabilities, accepting this fact will give you a competitive edge. A clean, freshly pressed suit, and lightly worn shoes are the foundation to looking sharp for your interview.  Try to refrain from wearing loud colors that might be distracting.  And while you want to appear modern, you’ll want to avoid wearing clothing that is too trendy or fashion forward. For women, natural or light makeup can accentuate your best features and make you feel your best, but too much makeup can be distracting and lead interviewers to question how serious you are about a career in healthcare.  Similarly, while light to moderate accessories are perfectly acceptable, over accessorizing is distracting, especially if your jewelry creates... read more

Non-Verbal Cues to be Aware of for Your Medical, Dental, Pharmacy or PA School Interview Part 1

By Sanam Darougar Farshidi While most applicants spend a significant amount of time thinking about what they are going to say in a heath professional school interview, less attention is given to the non-verbal cues that affect your ability to impress the admissions committee.  In the next two entries, we will discuss some of the important non-verbal cues that can help you ace your interview whether you are applying to medical school, PA school, dental school, or pharmacy school.  Lets begin by considering how your non-verbal communication can help you come across as confident: Exuding Confidence It goes without saying that confidence is key.  While an interview to determine your candidacy for medical school or PA school may be a tense experience, there are ways you can exude the confidence needed to impress your interviewers.  After all, how can you be trusted with managing patient safety and making split decisions about people’s lives, if you can’t even handle the stress of the initial interview? Being confident is an essential trait in medical professionals, so emitting confidence is a must in your interview for any health professional school.  Though the tips shared above are all ways you can appear more confident, other non-verbal cues can also transmit your level of confidence or lack thereof: Consider non-verbal verbals – Non-verbal communicative tactics include how you speak, intonation, and voice nuances.  In order to project confidence when you speak, be concise in your sentences and refrain from over sharing. Keep your tone of voice moderate, ensuring your voice is not too high pitched or so soft spoken it’s difficult to understand you.  If you have an accent,... read more

Adopting Good Body Language in the Medical, Dental, Pharmacy, or PA School Interview

By Sanam Darougar Farshidi You’ve made it to the medical school, dental school, pharmacy school or PA school interview, and you’ve spent countless hours preparing for what you want to say and how you want to say it.  You’ve carefully assessed every possible question you might be asked, and crafted answers that are sure to impress the interviewers. But did you know that only a small percentage of meaning in communication is in the words that are spoken, while the majority of meaning is derived from non-verbal factors? This means that people size us up and make decisions about who we are before we even speak. Communication is heavily weighted on non-verbal elements especially body language.  As a result, it’s vital that we are self aware of what our body is doing in our interactions, especially in something as important as a health professional school interview like medical school or PA school. What You Need to Know About Body Language Body movement is the first thing the interviewer will notice about you, and the last thing they remember after you’ve left.  In fact, body language is so important in communication, that each tip following this one is highly influenced by it because elements of body communication are woven into each non-verbal cue. There are far too many body language tips to be aware of in interpersonal interactions, but for the purposes of this list, we’ve honed in on the few key essentials: Posture – When the interviewer walks through the door to welcome you in, the way you sit is already sending them a message about who you are.  Do you slouch, or... read more

Healthcare Reform and Dentistry – What You Should Know for Your Dental School Interview

What You Need to Know About Healthcare Reform for Your Dental School Interview In recent years, dental schools are looking more and more at applicants’ knowledge and understanding of dental health care delivery.  As you prepare for your dental school interview, it is wise to consider these issues in general and how recent healthcare reform will impact dental care and the dental profession. To make sure you have the necessary preparation to ace your interview, try to gain a basic understanding of the issues revolving around healthcare reform’s impact on dentistry.  Avoid getting caught up in details and memorizing every fact about healthcare delivery in dentistry. Dental school admissions committees are not going to quiz you on your knowledge of details.  The goal is to demonstrate an overall understanding of the issues and formulate a position that shows the dental admissions committee your thoughtfulness.  In an attempt to help you prepare, below we have highlighted some of the key issues relating to the impact of healthcare reform on dentistry: Before we consider how healthcare reform will affect dentistry, it is worth looking at government programs designed to provide oral heath services for the population.  Government programs generally tend to cover healthcare services, including dental services, for vulnerable populations such as those who do not make too much money. There are two mechanisms through which the government provides oral healthcare services to low-income communities: Medicaid: Medicaid is a government program that pays for healthcare services for certain groups who are considered low-income and for individuals with certain kinds of disabilities. The program is funded by both the federal government and the state and run by... read more