The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston is the state’s oldest medical school and, for me, the perfect place to become a physician. I ranked it first for several reasons.
First, I really liked the curriculum. It has undergone significant revision over the past several years and, in fact, is constantly undergoing revision. Sort of that whole process improvement concept. The basic goal of these revisions has been to produce graduates who are clinically competent and able to find and process complicated information on their own so that they can continue to do so for the rest of their careers. They did this by decreasing the number of lecture hours, decreasing the time in class, and increasing PBL (problem based learning). All of the coursework emphasizes the clinically relevant information and minimizes the ‘factoid’ details that are great for medical trivia but not very helpful for understanding how to be a doctor. Almost everything is presented in a clinically oriented fashion. The courses are also integrated around clinical concepts. For example, the course I’m in now is pathobiology and host defenses. It integrates histology, pathology, immunity and microbiology, as well as smidgens of biochem and anatomy that has already been covered in previous courses. Our exams are very clinically oriented (at least as much as possible with first year basic sciences). Fortunately for us, this is the type of question that the USMLE is moving more and more to so we should be in good shape.
Next is the course schedule. On average, we’re in class until noon each day, with one or two afternoon sessions a week. This gives us plenty of time to study and to actually have a life. This was a big issue for me since I’m married and have two kids.
It is really difficult to overemphasize how great the faculty, staff and students were during my interview. As is befitting an island school, everyone is fairly laid back and very nice. I saw very little competition and none of the cut-throat in-fighting I’d always been told about medical school (but, to be fair, I didn’t see that at any school I interviewed at). Now that I’ve been here for about 8 months, I know that my interview experience wasn’t an isolated event. I really like it here as does almost everyone I know.
I also really like the campus. It had a real collegiate atmosphere. This was pretty cool for me since I’ve been out of college since ’90 and sort of missed that. Don’t forget, the school is on an island. There are palm trees scattered throughout campus and you can hear sea gulls most days. Go above the 3rd floor in most buildings and you can get a great view of the Gulf of Mexico. This was nice during anatomy exams. While we’re not so patiently waiting to move to the next tank/question, we could gaze out at the shrimp boats coming in. At least for me, that was calming and very welcome in an otherwise high stress situation (it’s your first medical school exam, after all!). Also, after a rough day of studying, it is peaceful to be able to stroll down the beach at night.
The school also offers a summer pre-matriculation program for incoming first years. It presents portions of all of the first year classes, including anatomy (and extensive cadaver dissections). You take exams but they aren’t recorded on your ‘permanent record’. I did it and found it to be a very helpful way of getting into the flow of things.
I had some other, personal, reasons for coming here like nearby friends but the reasons above where the biggest. There are certainly some negative things about the school. If you are looking for a cosmopolitan lifestyle, this certainly ain’t the place for you. We don’t have the biggest selection of entertainment options (we do, however, have Mardi Gras).
The bottom line for me is that this is a great school with supportive faculty and students, a student-friendly curriculum and a long history.
I’d be happy to answer any questions anyone has.