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Is there really a difficulty difference between med schools?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical Allopathic [ MD ]' started by Thego2guy, 03.21.12.

  1. Thego2guy

    Thego2guy

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    Hey guys

    I'm sick and tired of people sh*ting on schools like Downstate and NYMC. I have gotten into countless arguments with people about how there is no difference where you go to medical school since there will always be a surplus of information at your disposal. Med students barely learn 70% of what they are presented (or so I hear...)!! So how is one medical school more difficult than another?!?

    So guys, other than research opportunities, location, vibe, curriculum, and associated hospital... what makes medical schools so different? Does someone have any validation when they say "Well yeah, its Downstate, but its not Johns Hopkins. Its much harder there!!"? I'm pretty sure the caliber of students at Downstate (3.7, 32) is very similar to those at Columbia or Harvard (3.7 35?) as is the medical information presented to them.

    So, where is it harder? :bang:

    Thanks for your clarification and input!

    P.S. I tried searching for this around, couldn't get a normal answer, so I figured I'd make a post.
  2. armybound

    armybound future urologist. Moderator Emeritus

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    In general I have a hard time believing there can be much difference in the difficulty between schools, as far as the amount of knowledge required to learn goes. Level of competition among students, grading curves, etc might be quite different among schools though.

    I do think there can be a significant difference in quality, but hardly any difference in difficulty.
  3. Thego2guy

    Thego2guy

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    Pardon my ignorance, but what do you mean by quality? Do you mean how in-depth the professors go with their material? How they present it? Their general teaching skills?

    Thanks for your prompt reply :)
  4. armybound

    armybound future urologist. Moderator Emeritus

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    Yes to those attributes above. The style of exam can either be reflective of the boards or they can unhelpful. You can get lectured about minute details of some PhD's research which has no practical utility for your patients or for your shelf exams, or you can have a lecturer who presents relevant information in a manner easy to understand.

    I was thinking more about third year instead of first and second, though. The quality of the physicians and diversity of the patient population can greatly alter your clinical and educational experience, in my opinion.
  5. Thego2guy

    Thego2guy

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    I gotcha. Interesting. Is there a way to anticipate the quality of training other than reading SDN, online reviews, and looking up associated hospital? Since I used the example above, Downstate is in a very cruddy neighborhood, so I presume it provides good clinical skills. Hopkins is also in a very cruddy neighborhood, so respectively, its clinical options are good. Going by that criteria alone, the two schools would be equal? Or is there another dimension of variables/factors that I am missing?
  6. EBTrailRunner

    EBTrailRunner

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    I think it's best to assess a medical school's quality through its faculty instead of its student body. Higher-ranked medical schools tend to have greater success attracting and retaining big-name faculty. Sure, being an expert in your respective field does not guarantee you will be an excellent teacher, but I'd imagine having such faculty to guide you during your clinical rotations, receive a LOR from, assist in an exciting research project, etc. will go a long way toward getting you into a residency you want.
  7. Thego2guy

    Thego2guy

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    In the end, we all agree it is inappropriate to say that one school is more difficult than another, right? Realistically, you are learning the same exact medicine.. Just because one school is ranked higher, doesn't make it more difficult.
  8. theseeker4

    theseeker4 MS 3

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    That is correct, I can't recall anyone making a convincing argument that the material is actually harder at higher-ranked med schools. Simply that the competition is greater, better connections, there are more opportunities (especially for research) and bigger-name faculty.
  9. EBTrailRunner

    EBTrailRunner

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    This is what I meant.
  10. candav

    candav

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    I don't necessarily agree. You are learning the same medicine, but in vastly different ways. Hopkins has a ~1.5 year preclinical curriculum; Duke's is even shorter at one year. Does this affect the difficulty of the preclinical years? I have to believe it does. At some schools, students are expected to complete a scholarly project. At some schools, students begin clinical exposure/learning clinical skills in first year. Do these extra responsibilities -- on top of learning the same material as medical students at other schools -- affect difficulty?

    In any case, I don't know if it has anything to do with ranking, but I do believe that students at certain schools have it tougher than most.
  11. Thego2guy

    Thego2guy

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    It is interesting that you bring this up. I know people from Columbia's 1.5 year preclinical curriculum, and they say it is actually less stressful/better than the 2 year one. I don't have more details on that however. As for the scholarly project, as far as I know, that is done in the 4th year? When stress levels are lowest.
    Thanks for the input nonetheless. It would be cool to hear some opinions from people in the 2 year vs. 1.5 year preclinical curriculum's.
  12. candav

    candav

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    Re: scholarly project, I guess it depends on the school. I believe at Hopkins the scholarly project is completed alongside the preclinical curriculum. I remember seeing the same at Vanderbilt, though their old curriculum is being transitioned out.
  13. RedSox10

    RedSox10

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    All schools teach essentially the same material because all students have to take the same standardized exams. So the material covered by each MD school is essentially the same. I would argue that some first and second years might have it "easier" if their school is strictly P/F with NO internal ranking. Lots of these sorts of schools tend to be "top" schools. Then again....its equally possible that despite no internal ranking and a P/F grading scheme individuals at "top" schools are inherently overachievers and still work just as hard.

    I'm not quite sure how to answer your question but as a whole I would infer that the grading scheme has more of a role in which school is "hard" versus easy than the name/rank.
  14. JasonicBoom

    JasonicBoom

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    I don't think "stressful" necessarily equates to "difficulty". From my experience interviewing at schools on traditional 2 year pre-clinical, the medical students told me that the same concepts would be taught over and over again to ensure you get the material if you missed it the first time. Then when interviewing at schools on =/<1.5 year preclinicals (Columbia, Duke, Vanderbilt, NYU), the deans or education or whatnot all emphasized that these redundancies are removed in order to compress the curriculum. This would put a lot more onus on the students to ensure they get all the material on their own and I think this would definitely mean these schools are more "difficult". However, I know that Columbia and Duke at least are unranked pass/fail to make up for the "stressful" aspect of the compressed curriculum, but the students definitely do work very hard to keep up.

    When students say the compressed curriculum is "better", it appears to me they are referring to the fact they have more time allocated for their clinical education and research. At Duke they said that having early exposure to the clerkships (they do them in second year) allows students to find their area of interest and then have all of third year to do research in that field to make them more competitive for the match. At Columbia they told me that having an extra half year gives students the opportunity to take selectives in very specialized fields (lots of surgical subspecialites are offered) that you wouldn't have time to in a traditional curriculum plus a research project, so yeah, I do feel that in these ways a compressed curriculum would be "less stressful/better" but I don't think it means that it is less "difficult", it is probably a lot more work, but there is more to gain.
    Last edited: 03.21.12
  15. johnnydrama

    johnnydrama I'm no Superman

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    As a med student, your primary goal is getting into residency. If you can, compare the match lists at these schools in specialties that interest you.

    This comes with a caveat though - Columbia has a better match list than Downstate (for example), but it also starts out with better students. Does it really add more of a benefit than Downstate, or would the Columbia students have performed as well at the other school.

    My bet is that it's a combination. Residency directors use school prestige as a proxy for competitiveness, but I'd bet mostly students are doing it on their own. The most important criterion for residency after all is Step I, which is almost always self-taught.

    Downstate lacks the frills of Columbia and attracts fewer all star faculty, but it does provide a great clinical experience. I would still choose Columbia over Downstate (clinical experience at Columbia is good too), but I might choose Downstate over Cornell (where the fellows are treated like residents, the residents like medical students, and the medical students like...). Cornell's a great place to be a patient, but not so much to train.

    As for being difficult - all US medical schools are "easy". It takes a Herculean effort to get kicked out for academics from most. Once you're in, you're in for good usually (although a few people need an extra year or two and some crack under pressure).

    NYMC has other issues - fractured class, no good public transportation into city, etc.

    If you are the top of your class at almost any medical school you will be fine. That said, it would be better to be middle of the pack at Columbia than NYMC/Downstate.

    As for the 1.5 year curriculum - all schools are moving that way (think it's an LCME recommendation now) and it's almost certainly easier.
  16. Thego2guy

    Thego2guy

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    Thanks guys for all of the excellent responses! Perhaps I shouldn't be so angry at my peers who say "Yeah but its not as hard as Hopkins".. although, it still bugs me.

    And JasonicBoom, I don't know why, but I have never heard about such redundancy. (But its nice to know that redundancy is there) However it is logical, and it makes sense. Other wise, how else would they shrink the time but not the curriculum? Thank you for your valued input. *back to arguing about how Downstate is not easier than Hopkins* :(
  17. ppfizenm

    ppfizenm

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    Well I guess DO is much more difficult than MD from reading some people's explanations.
  18. willen101383

    willen101383

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    This isnt undergrad. Tell ur friends to DIAF. Med school is like 75% self guided anyway. I think I actually only watched lectures for about 15% of the total lectures in my preclinical curriculum.

    My pops went to NYMC. He has been an attending for like 40 years now and is well respected in his area. His patients love him. He owns multiple homes, has nice cars, we went on good vacations as kids. Dunno what you are expecting to get by going to hopkins vs NYMC if you are going to be a run of the mill community hospital doc like 90% of grads are.
  19. johnnydrama

    johnnydrama I'm no Superman

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    90% of grads from top schools are not run if the mill community hospital PCPs. Are you including specialists at community hospitals? Then maybe - don't know the stats.
  20. willen101383

    willen101383

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    I am referring to med school graduates at every school in every specialty....not PCPs. I wasnt quoting any stats...nor do i know/care what the stats are.

    The fact is most med graduates are going to be trenches type docs in community hospitals. They wont be academic faculty. They will be living their lives helping their patients from "on low."
  21. kpcrew

    kpcrew Removed

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    well yeah, they learn everything mds learn and more duh
  22. willen101383

    willen101383

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    Dont be a shmuck. We do learn everything MDs learn and more...its a fact. However that "more" is generally useless for most docs.
  23. ppfizenm

    ppfizenm

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    lmao.

    I don't think she was being a shmuck but this was too funny
  24. willen101383

    willen101383

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    Prob not intentionally and I will admit I had to get my "jump on the DO basher" quota for the day lol.
  25. varsityblue

    varsityblue SDN Lifetime Donor Lifetime Donor

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    State schools tend to be less nice with grading than their more prestigious, sometimes higher-ranked counterparts. You ultimately want to be at a school that supports your success and won't fail or neg you if you don't do too well on an anatomy exam, for example. A-F grading tends to be the killer of M1 and M2 happiness, IMHO.
  26. Thego2guy

    Thego2guy

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    Thank you for the replies! And as this has been noted, I definitely think the distinction between difficulty and stress should be made. I'll admit I don't know the grading system at Downstate (on my phone, I'll look it up later), but I know that Yale doesn't even assign formal grades at all!! Certainly I would be less stressed at Yale as a result. However in terms of difficulty -learning the CV system, hepatic, nervous etc...- it is the same at both Yale and Downstate....or so I think/thought. I also acknowledge the other posts, and I personally also lean toward the aforementioned statement of how a select few schools can be above average difficulty, meanwhile everywhere else the level is about the same.

    Also, this is not for me! This is the argument I have with ignorant superficial ivy-whores who like to **** on anyone who doesn't go to top schools because supposedly they have it "the hardest and the toughest". I just wanted to see what my fellow brethern have to say on SDN, to make sure that I am not the ignorant one.
  27. Gut Shot

    Gut Shot

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    Every year just over 0.00005% of the population matriculates at a domestic allopathic medical school. That said, never underestimate the human ability to split hairs.
  28. Thego2guy

    Thego2guy

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    You hit the nail on the head. Wow. :whoa:
  29. theseeker4

    theseeker4 MS 3

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    Nice. I am the 0.00005%!
  30. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member Moderator Emeritus

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    The AAMC and LCME make sure that all med schools cover the same material and meet certain benchmarks, and everybody takes the same Step exams. So to this extent med school is pretty standardized. I think the one think that can make med school preclinical years "harder" is the grading system. There are some places where you can fail a test, a course or a semester, and a few places where there is Pass/Fail grading which is really Pass/Pass. If you are in one of the former kinds of programs, you will likely be working harder because you have further to fall. Fear is a great motivator.
  31. Alejandro

    Alejandro

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    Hm. I'd take Downstate over a lot of the schools that I saw as ranked. I dont know-at the end of the day, it just depends on the person. Obviously coming out of a top 10 school makes life a little easier, because you can let the name of your school get you places, but I think all of the rest, its all about what you make of the experience, if you're assertive enough to go for what you want, and if people overall like you enough to support your cause.
  32. pfaction

    pfaction

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    As a person who is in a pharmacy program, analogous to this:

    You ultimately control how you are as a physician. My school may not be the best, but it's certified. People get slaughtered on rotations. Those of us who take initiative, look things up, go above and beyond what is required for exams enjoy and benefit from going on the clinical floors.
  33. Thego2guy

    Thego2guy

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    One of the best direct replies yet. I'll be sure to use it and educate others. Thank you for addressing the actual question.

    Also, I agree with how in the end all that matters is that you are a competent physician. Lol I know how it all works, this is not about persuading me or getting into a med school, or anything like that. As Law2Doc addressed this, it was about arguing with imbeciles who think that Johns Hopkins teaches you more medicine than Downstate, ergo, it is harder. This obvious blind discrimination surely made me upset, so I wanted to know if that would actually be the case. And the answer is, it is not. Medicine is medicine regardless where you go. Stress levels however can fluctuate.
  34. kpcrew

    kpcrew Removed

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    no need to get so defensive hahaha
  35. capn jazz

    capn jazz

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    I concede that top-20 private schools have more money, big names, and opportunities. But I worry about how the clinical education is at a place with a rich hospital like... say.... Northwestern.... compared to a poor community hospital at.. say... Downstate.
  36. TheMightySmiter

    TheMightySmiter

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    The best clinical experience, IMO, comes from schools affiliated with both--like LAC+USC at Keck.
  37. BadHorse

    BadHorse I meant Gandhi

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    Wow, this question was made for me. I'm at downstate and one of my good friends from college is at hopkins, we were kinda friendly rivals in college, always at the top of our classes with a similar amount of effort, academically we're nearly identical. Now that we're here we consistently score high on exams, the only difference is that puts me near the top of my class and it puts him at about the average.

    In terms of class rank, being at Hopkins is gonna be tough, you're surrounded by the best and the brightest, but that's where the big name comes in. And he seems to be motivated by the awesomeness of his classmates. Downstate is awesome, but I sometimes feel like I'm not working at my full potential.

    In terms of content, we all have to learn the same stuff, and we usually choose to learn it on our own. Hopkins has resources that other schools might lack that could make it slightly easier to learn, Downstate still doesn't have video lectures (which frustrates everyone to no end), Hopkins has beautiful facilities and early patient interaction and I think all in all a place like that pushes you to reach your potential, to push yourself hard, and in that way it might be "more difficult," but really a medical education is a medical education, you decide how hard you work and what you get out of it, you can coast by anywhere, I just wouldn't want you as my doctor if you do.
  38. gujuDoc

    gujuDoc

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    what no video lecture??? Wayne is not highly ranked but even they have all the technology. as per early clinical exposure at my school I feel like its more self directed. u make the most of ur site visits and ur volunteer opportunities u will learn a lot. otherwise no go.
  39. Thego2guy

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    I agree with gujuDoc. Wow! What an interesting situation you have there, I'm glad you came across my post then! I appreciate what you said about how medical education is medical education anywhere. I'm sure you sweat just as much as your friend at Hopkins does when you are studying brain stem cross sections, or preparing for your Step 1. Maybe you two off set each other as well; you have to study harder to compensate for the lack of videos :p and he has to study harder to keep up with the competition! :D In the end, I honestly think that the difference is marginal, and I think the vast majority have confirmed that.
  40. Chrome19

    Chrome19

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    If you need other people to motivate you, then you probably aren't motivated enough. When I start medical school, the goal would be to learn as much as I can and do the best I can. I'm not competing with anybody but myself. Medical school is really what you put into it.

    A friend of mine went to Harvard Med while both of her younger sisters went to Howard Med. Apart from extracurricular opportunities and access to money, she claims there's no difference between their knowledge bases. They all passed their steps with high scores and got into good places for residency.

    The goal is to sufficiently digest the substrate offered by medical school. Huda Zoghbi MD (HHMI investigator) went to Meharry. I know of a professor at Hopkins who went to some unknown US med school. It's really about self-motivation IMO. All these questions about "Which school is harder?" etc are quite nonsensical when you consider the big picture.
  41. BadHorse

    BadHorse I meant Gandhi

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    Circular, your logic is. The rest of your post was valid, just try to keep in mind that after your first week of studying cranial nerves til you can't see straight your resolve may wane a bit, and it helps, sometimes, to have highly motivated people around you.
  42. Chrome19

    Chrome19

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    My conclusion is not a restatement of my premise so I don't see what's circular.

    Obviously positive peer pressure is helpful and does have its merits. However I'm speaking from a passion perspective. Some of the best people I know are just really driven internally (speaking of scientists here), and they are rare.

    If you think the effort you give will be significantly influenced by external cues, then it's very unlikely you are maximizing your internal drive. If your apartment is neat and organized only when girls are coming over, you really can't tell me you are a neat person.
  43. Atlas Shrugged

    Atlas Shrugged

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    I agree. Competition is healthy and can push you to become better in many facets of your life. I also find I work a lot harder when I have others depending on me.
  44. Morsetlis

    Morsetlis SGU MS-4

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    I'm still wrapping my mind around this from when I heard it last year, but now I believe it's possible after seeing the redundancy...
  45. johnnydrama

    johnnydrama I'm no Superman

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    It's not just redundancy. A good percentage of what we learn in the preclinical years will end up being flat out wrong. The gaps in our understanding of medicine are pretty mind boggling and many things generally regarded as true by our profession are probably actually false. Learning how to learn is more important than the information itself to a large extent.
  46. Slack3r

    Slack3r Sicker than your average

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    I don't necessarily think "big name" faculty in the sense youre thinking is relevant to teaching. Those big names are likely research names. True "teachers" don't seem to be at big name placea; Ferrier, of Lipincotts Biochem is at Drexel. Constanzo is at VCU. Goljan teaches at OSU (a DO school, GASP!).
  47. anbuitachi

    anbuitachi ASA Member

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    Unfortunately, you cant judge how difficult a place is based on the caliber of the students. For example back in college, people from Cornell would be like 'oh our orgo class test avg is in the 40s' and people from a community school also goes 'oh ours in the 40s too'. Does that mean the two exams are of similar difficulty? Not necessarily. Send Top students to take the community schools exam and the avg can be in the 90s.

    The point is that on average the people at top schools, including medical school are smarter than those at lower ranked schools. This is a generalization and it does not mean a Downstate student is automatically less qualified than a Mt Sinai student. It also does not mean that Downstate is 'easier' than top schools because most schools are not graded on a bell curve. I'm sure the difficulty at most schools are similar but student body is not the same. How can you say a 30 MCAT avg, w/ 3.7 GPA from, vs a 36 avg with 3.9 GPA be the same generally? It's not. Nevertheless, Downstate is a great school.
  48. anbuitachi

    anbuitachi ASA Member

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    double posted for some reason...
  49. RedSox10

    RedSox10

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    If you go to a no-name undergraduate school, get a 4.0 and beast the MCAT can you get into a Top 10 medical school? Probably. Would it be slightly easier to get into a top 10 coming from an Ivy? Yes. But would you get a 4.0 at an Ivy? Probably not. The same rules for undergrad apply to med school as well.
  50. ppfizenm

    ppfizenm

    Joined:
    07.02.10
    Messages:
    1,880
    Location:
    30 Rock
    Status:
    Pre-Medical
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    I like how you completely ignored everything else that was already posted. Strong work

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