What's your opinion?

Hi all; I have a little ad hoc survey for my fellow OPMs, med students and alums.

I recently joined the faculty at the medical school where I graduated. Next fall I will be expected to lead a group of first-year students in a course titled Essentials of Clinical Medicine. The course is designed to help students integrate into the profession of medicine. Each group is comprised of 8-10 students and one faculty advisor, and assignment to the groups is completely random. It is a required course, and with a few minor updates appears to be about the same as when I took it 9 years ago. Although the majority of the weekly sessions were helpful, like learning to take an accurate medical history, some were clearly geared toward younger students who never had an opportunity to develop professionalism in other careers. For these sessions, I pretty much showed up to punch my dance card and kept my mouth shut, but found it frustrating and a waste of time nonetheless. As I got to know other OPMs in my class, this seemed to be a universal feeling among us.

Now that I have the opportunity to maybe affect change in this area of the curriculum, I’d like to get your input. Do you/did you have a similar small-group course in your program? If so, would you have preferred to be in a group made up of other non-trads, and have some of the sessions devoted to topics that are unique to us? Or do you think that it’s better to NOT be singled out to participate in a different group based on your age and previous experience? If you had the option to choose, which group would you prefer? If you could be in a group made up of non-trads, what topics would you like to have addressed? Any other comments or suggestions are welcome too. Thanks in advance for your responses!

Hi jmdmd,

The class you describe sounds a lot like my first semester Clinical Skills I class. Our small group was also assigned the same pre-clinical mentor until this month, meeting several times throughout the first year as well as this past semester, though we are now heading our separate ways. Whether by design or by coincidence my small group was a mixture of non-traditional and traditional students:

  1. age 27 – female, married mom, former social worker

  2. age 27 – female, single mom, former physical therapist

  3. age 22 – female, trad student, cancer survivor, wrote children’s book

  4. age 23 – female, trad student, parents from Vietnam, worked in child mental health during glide year

  5. age 39 – male, recent newlywed, former lawyer, turned 39 on first day of orientation

  6. age 29 – male, spouse is also a med student, from Canada, former engineer in auto industry

  7. age 42 – male, me: former Air Force cryptologist, former cancer research associate

    You could not have imagined a more eclectic group of people with such diverse backgrounds assembled for a common purpose – to serve society though the practice of medicine. I could not have imagined going through this class or the first year and a half of our mentor program with any other group of people. I think segregating the traditional from the non-traditional students and using this as a criterion for assignment into small groups would be a bad idea for several reasons. It’s important to bear in mind that traditional/younger ≠born yesterday. Sometimes I felt I learned as much from their various life experiences as they did from mine. Second, developing professionalism in other careers is not the same as developing professionalism in medicine. The practices and quirks of other professions don’t always readily translate to the practices and quirks of medicine. I’ve seen more than enough unprofessionalism while working in research. Everyone could use a refresher of professional expectations, especially as they uniquely apply to the medical profession.

    So to answer your question briefly – no. I don’t think non-traditional students should be singled out, especially since the line between traditional and non-traditional students becomes blurred pretty quickly. Regardless of where you come from, that first day of medical school orientation is the great equalizer that pushes the “reset button” on your life and from that moment forward you’re all in the same boat. Personally, I like the way our small group was such a “mixed” group and I would not have wanted to trade that experience for the one-sidedness of a strictly non-trad small group. I feel my own medical education was richer for the experience. Finally, the trad & non-trad students are going to have to rely on & collaborate with each other eventually whether in study groups in medical school or on rounds in residency; might as well start now.


Thanks for your response. You made some good points and I appreciate the input from the “front line.” It sounds like your program may be proactive in grouping at least some of the non-trads together. If you don’t mind, how many total students are in your first year class? Is this MD or DO? State school, private, off-shore? Do most of your classmates stay local for clerkships?

  • jmdmd Said:
If you don't mind, how many total students are in your first year class?


  • jmdmd Said:
Is this MD or DO?


  • jmdmd Said:
State school, private, off-shore?

state school

  • jmdmd Said:
Do most of your classmates stay local for clerkships?

regional (in-state)