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Deciding b/w 2 schools: How Important is Curriculum?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by +ve, Mar 27, 2007.

  1. +ve

    +ve Keep Ur Head Up!

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    Hi,
    I'm trying to decide between 2 schools that differ in their curriculum. One school is organ-system based where you do all the anatomy, histo, physiology, biochem, immuno, etc of body organs/systems at once [they just started this with last year's entering class so I'm guessing they're still experimenting with it]. The other does the block system for first year where you take 1 or 2 subjects at a time for a certain period of time and then move to the next subject, e.g. 9 weeks block for biochem, 16 week anatomy, etc. In the second year, you learn about diseases, abnormal structure & function, and pharmacology by organ-system.

    I'm aware that there are pros and cons to each style but how much should I factor this in my decision?. On one hand, organ system seems to be better integrated since you're learning everything there is to learn about each system like cardio or pulmonary at the same time. But then, I think it may be less stressful to be able to focus on one or two subjects at a time. For instance, in the block system, you take anatomy all by itself-- no other major course at the time. Also, I feel that this method might give students a stronger science foundation which is then applied to second year study of patho/micro/pharmacology.

    Plus, if you don't like a course e.g. biochem, you know you'll be done with it at the end of the block, rather than doing it again and again with each organ/system. I can't imagine having anatomy extend throughout the whole first year. I just feel that med school is hard enough as is with tons of material to cover, but life can be a little better if you're not learning histo details/minutia along with those of anatomy, phys, biochem, etc at the same time. In the organ system, you have a midterm and final only for each organ/system which covers all the subjects, so you'll be studying out of different textbooks for each exam. I guess this might better prepare you for usmle since your first question maybe on physiology and the next on histo or biochem.

    I should probably add that the organ-system school offered me full tuition scholarship but it's in the midwest, and the block system school is my top choice [east coast] but I'm not yet sure if they'll offer me anything-- still waiting to get my financial aid award letter. Everyone's telling me I'd be stupid to turn down the money and that the difference in curriculum should not be play a big role in my decision. I'm also taking location, clinical experience, diversity of student body, finances and other things about each school into consideration.

    What do y'all think?
     
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  3. dutchman

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    It is the school, not the system, that will make your experience better from one school to the other. I have heard good things about both techniques.
     
  4. HumbleMD

    HumbleMD hmmmm...

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    I think money and school resources far outweigh the curriculum. It's the rotations that matter anyways
     
  5. notdeadyet

    notdeadyet Still in California
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    I'd be careful about undervaluing curriculum.

    Most folks on SDN look at med school largely as a stepping stone to the desired residency of choice. Your Step 1 is the biggest factor in that and your school's curriculum and how it teachers in years one and two will have the biggest impact on this, not the clinical rotations.

    That said, OP- a scholarship at one school vs. no money at another should probably weigh heaviest.
     
  6. sunnyjohn

    sunnyjohn Got Mustard?

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    As long as it ain't PBL, take the full ride.
     
  7. sirus_virus

    sirus_virus nonsense poster

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    I like fullrides. I hope to get one tonight.
     
  8. AnEyeLikeMars

    AnEyeLikeMars Member

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    I'm not sure that those two options are distinct enough for curriculum to be a large factor in the decision.

    I agree with the other posters that financial considerations might be more important.

    You might want to look more at how they teach the material day to day. Is one school mainly lecture? Is one PBL-based? How much of your time is spent in class?

    EDIT: I might be hesitant about a new, experimental curriculum, but at least you wouldn't be the first year.
     
  9. HumbleMD

    HumbleMD hmmmm...

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    coughEmorycough
     
  10. ahhh123

    ahhh123 Member

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    i wouldn't say emory's curriculum is entirely new..maybe new to the school... ucsf, duke, penn all have a similar curriculum to the one that emory's implementing...
     
  11. Meeher

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    Vanderbilt's overhauling their entire curriculum as well, and we're the first class to have it ('2011). I REALLY hope they iron out all the problems fast. Even though the curriculum is new, I still favored Vandy because I liked the new curriculum more than those at other schools, so in my decision, curriculum was large but not TOO large (also liked student body and administration and Emphasis).
     
  12. jsnuka

    jsnuka Senior Member
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  13. Critical Mass

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    Disagree. Step 1 is still your primary indicator of matching success even though I do agree that the clinical years are more important to your professional life. If your M1/2 curriculum blows and you suck at step 1, your options are going to be far more limited before you even set foot on the wards.

    Of course the problem is that you can't gauge a curriculum as a pre-med. You won't know if your curriculum sucks until you've started school and/or you get bitten by the USMLE. My particular problem now is the amount of interfering that my school does with my learning as a result of a bad curriculum, i.e. making me show up to BS when I could be home studying. I definitely agree with the 4th year perspective referenced above, but I really just want my school to leave me alone and stop pretending to teach us stuff. They refuse.

    Now that I've said that, I will also say that your personal motivation trump all of the above, but curriculum is a lot more important to me now that I am in med school than it ever was when I was evaluating the programs.
     
  14. SeventhSon

    SeventhSon SIMMER DOWN

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    I talked to several adcoms last year that claimed that the data shows it (the curriculum) doesn't really matter in terms of impacting the mean score the class receives on the step 1. In terms of stress though, I would think the integrated curriculum is better because you have fewer tests to juggle.

    In terms of overall performance, what you hvae to realize is that no matter where you start, the stuff at the beginning makes more sense as you progress through various subjects. E.G. talking about porphyrias and bilirubin production from biochem made much better sense after i took physiology of the GI tract, but you have to start tackling the subjects at SOME angle. I think the more important thing is that you go back and give a cursory review to old subjects where it is germane, and certainly to do so for step 1 studying.
     
  15. Critical Mass

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    Okay, I have had the rest of the day to think about this, and I've reached a conclusion. The advice from the M4 was sound, and I also agree with the above quote that the curriculum style is not a big determinant of step 1 success. The reason that I feel this way is because most of the progressive changes are now happening to the first year which is really more of a warm up for M2, the true step 1 correlate, while M2 is more standard (path and pharm intensive). I definitely endorse the notion that there has to be a starting point in every curriculum, but I also have fewer problems than other students in understanding "new" material. Part of this is because I had ~400 undergrad/Masters/PhD hours before med school, part is because I was a nursing student, part is because I am a gainfully employed med tech, and part is just because I have seen every ER episode since 1994. There is much less "new" material to me than the average student, so as little interference from the faculty and administration is preferred to me. Others actually benefit from lectures and PBL. By the same token, I am not doing nearly as well as most of my classmates think I am because I don't study very much. Med school is all about separating those who studied since the last exam from those who have not. The devil is in the details, and your own study habits will neutralize a bad curriculum. The problem is that I don't want to drive myself into debt over a bad product regardless of whether or not it actually harms me in the future.

    After I've graduated, I will probably look back and say, "What the ____ was all the fuss about during M1? I don't even remember that ____ anymore."

    So I suppose that the crux of my argument is that if I am forced to pay $20K a year in tuition, I want to spend my money in the way that will best benefit me during the semester/block that I am paying for rather than trying to decipher what my retrospective feelings will be like years from now. If they set up the curriculum for those who prefer self study and/or have families or things that are more important to them than school (like myself), it is counterproductive for the school to say, "Hey you gotta drive to campus to participate in this stupid PBL for an hour even though you're not being graded for it."

    Here is my ideal M1/2 curriculum--you hand me a bunch of books/syllabi/notes, and I'll show up every four weeks to take an exam or two. End of story. Make all of the other BS optional. I've already had more clinical exposure than you are willing to offer me in the preclinical years.

    I admire the schools that go out there and build a new curriculum regardless of whether or not the curriculum succeeds. My house claims to be progressive, but it's really just a bunch of insignificant tweaks to a 1970's curriculum which do nothing but annoy us. They've added the general buzzwords--PBL, "early clinical exposure," evidence-based medicine, lectures on professionalism, yada yada, but none of that stuff has anything significant to do with how we are evaluated. It's sorta like when you see that 1974 rusted out Dodge Dart rolling through your neighorhood on 20 inch chrome rims and a $2,000 audio system. Of course the engine won't turn over in cold whether, and the cracked engine block makes white smoke billow out everytime you start it, but boy do the rims spin! And that's what they advertise--the spinning rims and the bumpin stereo all the while the actual car is a piece of ____. Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining. So I'd rather take my chances with the 2005 japanese model that the progressive school is offering.

    Before you ask, no, I'm not going to tell you where I go to school out on a thread. I've already had to start over with a new account once because of stuff I've said on SDN with respect to my school. Rest assured that none of you are considering it right now anyway.
     
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  17. O Face

    O Face Ohh Ohh Ohh

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    Either way, you're going to get a solid education, but I completely see your point. My school did things organ based for the first year and I thought it was very difficult that way. I would have preferred the block system. With the organ system method, I found myself constantly "rationing" my study time towards whatever subject I was doing most poorly in. Like if my score in biochem was very poor, I would study that subject to the detriment of anatomy and histology and physiology, etc. And then once that grade came up, I would inevitably be doing poorly in another subject...and you see where this is headed.

    Then again, I never experienced a block system, which I'm sure has its own pitfalls.
     

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