The 2010 Academic Needs Assessment

Amber E. Johnson
Academic Affairs Committee Co-chair
2011 M.D./M.B.A. Candidate
Jefferson Medical College

This year was very unique in the Student National Medical Association (SNMA). It marked the first time in recent history that our members were granted the opportunity to provide feedback on programming. With the help of its programmatic committees (Academic Affairs, Community Service, Diversity Research, Health Policy and Legislative Affairs, International Affairs, and Publications), the SNMA is able to provide a number of tools, opportunities, and events. As a chairperson of one of the programmatic committees, it is my responsibility to oversee the existing programs and to come up with fresh ideas for new programming. In my admittedly biased opinion, the Academic Affairs Committee (AAC) has been rather successful in supplying members with useful academic resources. However, in the interest of continuous quality improvement, it is important to evaluate these resources. Does the membership agree, or do they think that the AAC is out of touch? Perhaps our programming has not been useful or was not implemented correctly. This year the AAC was charged with objectively measuring how our members felt about what we provide.

The Academic Needs Assessment was a survey that consisted of 16 questions. The questionnaire allowed participants to provide feedback about the academic programming at their schools as well as their perceived academic needs. We hoped to identify how well our resources were being utilized by our members. We also asked participants to report their academic performance in comparison to other students. We hoped to capture topics that may be unique to minorities. According to Minorities in Medicine: Facts and Figures 2005 by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), minority medical students often face unique academic scenarios that their majority counterparts do not. Designing the survey took several iterations, and in the end, we feel that finished project was thorough, detailed, and actionable.

One important goal was to ensure that the respondents were representative of the general body of SNMA members. Though the survey was sent to our entire membership via email, our target audience was active members who currently attend medical school. The survey used our Active Network online interface package. It was left open for about one month during which time we received 307 responses from our target audience.

What we found was that our scholarship programs and discounted USMLE materials were among the most popular resources. The programs with less popularity included the SNMA Book Swap Shop and the SOAP Note academic newsletter. In assessing the helpers and impediments of academic success, we found that members use things like support systems, a strong work ethic, and life experience to help them succeed in medical school. Members report lack of support, poor study habits, poor test-taking skills, poor curriculum at their schools, and lack of financial resources among the hindrances to academic success. These findings are similar in some ways to the findings of Kara L. Odom, MD, MPH, Laura Morgan Roberts, PhD, Rachel L. Johnson, MD, PhD, and Lisa A. Cooper, MD, MPH. In their 2007 study, these former SNMA officers studied the obstacles and opportunities to academic success among minority medical students.  However, some of the reports that we received in the Academic Needs Assessment exceeded those provided by Dr Odom and her colleagues.

A preliminary report has been submitted to the president-elect Michael Knight. These results will be used to shape the president’s agenda for 2011-2012. In addition, a final report of the results will be prepared for the January 2011 Board of Directors meeting. Although this information is still being interpreted and understood, we have already begun to use it as a facilitator for future programming. For example, we will be revamping our webinar series to include topics that the survey participants report wanting more of. The data suggest that members would like to have more board prep resources as well as tips for interviewing for residency positions. Because of this, the webinar series will be used as a method to provide our entire membership with an interactive, real-time discussion of these topics and more.

If you did not participate in the Needs Assessment and would like to share your feedback, you can feel free to email the Academic Affairs Chairs at With your help, the SNMA will continue to improve and expand the benefits we provide to our members.

Minorities in Medicine: Facts and Figures 2005. Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Spring 2005.
Odum, K. L., Roberts, L. M., Johnson, R. L., Cooper, L. A. (2007) Exploring Obstacles to and Opportunities for Professional Success Among Ethnic Minority Medical Students. Physician Workforce. 82 (2) 146-153.

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