VCU Summer Institute in Psychiatry for Medical Students
July 8-13, 2012
The personal, business, and educational uses of social media have impressively blossomed over the last decade. Social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are now household names despite their recent debuts. Facebook, launched in 2004, and Twitter, launched in 2006, have even managed to either spawn their own verbs (facebooking) or repurpose others (tweeting). Both sites began as a way to build and nurture friendships, but have evolved into great advertising tools for businesses, and continue to evolve as potential enhancers to the educational process. As the tools available to diversify and expand the way education reaches students of all levels, medical school educators are learning to use these tools to their advantage.
Greetings, Class of 2010! Two thousand ten – that has a nice ring to it. I am honored to have an opportunity to address this entering medical school class at Meharry Medical College. You should be commended on your accomplishments. Acceptance to medical school is a big deal – this is a tremendous accomplishment. It is a time of celebration for students, parents and friends. Thank you for inviting me to celebrate with you and participate in today’s event. I have had an opportunity to reflect on my own emotional state nearly 22 years ago when I entered medical school. I was filled with overwhelming excitement and nearly paralyzing anxiety. I suspect that as you sit here today, you too are filled with a myriad of emotions – joy, excitement, anxiety. It is my goal today to help you strip away all anxiety and nervousness and to help you develop a strategy to achieve your ultimate goal of becoming a doctor.
It has been well documented that an ethnically/racially diverse physician workforce is essential in eliminating health disparities which currently exist in this nation. To that end, entities like the Student National Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges have advocated and encouraged medical schools to increase the number of underrepresented minorities (URMs) within each entering medical school class. Additionally there has been a call for an increase in the absolute number of physicians needed to address the healthcare needs of the US population. Attrition rates, specifically among URMs, are of particular concern as this directly impacts the racial/ethnic makeup of the physician workforce. An increase in class size and the formation of new medical schools necessitates adequate support for all students academically, personally, and with regards to other life stressors. However, in the absence of such support, students are more likely to experience burnout or high emotional exhaustion, and consequently increase the rates of attrition.
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.
The worst fear of this medical student came true in the past year: I was recommended for dismissal from the medical education curriculum due to multiple academic failures. Despite the well-meaning suggestion of many close to me not to pursue an appeal, I decided to go through with the process. I urge any medical student who may be struggling with more than one course to look into their school’s probation and dismissal policies so that they are aware of the process, and to begin seeking out individuals who would be willing to be their advocate in the event that they decide to appeal a dismissal decision. The institution I attend allows the medical student to go before two committees and, if necessary, the Dean of the Medical Program to appeal a dismissal decision. In my case, the initial progress committee voted yes to uphold their dismissal recommendation 14-1 and the second committee voted yes to uphold the dismissal decision 8-7. The Dean has decided to allow me a final opportunity as an adult learner to demonstrate that I can be successful with the medical education curriculum. I was informed that the committee members feel there is nothing the school can do to help and that is their reason behind the dismissal. In other words, I ‘won’ the appeal after being in a state of limbo for six months. However, my time as a medical student from this point forward is not going to be up for discussion but based strictly on passing grades – one more failure and I am out; no additional appeal will be possible.