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I'm curious about Ohio State's 2 different teaching strategies (independent study vs. lecture/small group). If you're a current student, what do you like/dislike about the teaching format you chose. Do students from one teaching teaching strategy have a better residency match compared to the other? How happy are you at Ohio State in general?


Heck Of A Guy
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Jul 9, 2001
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I sent Nike a version of this via PM, but decided to post it.

I'm a 4th year at OSU. When I started, we actually had 3 different pathways -- LD (lecture/discussion), ISP (independent study pathway), and PBL (problem-based learning). They have now incorporated some elements of the PBL pathway into LD and phased out the PBL pathway. LD these days has some curriculum now in addition to fewer lecture-hours per week. The basic concept of LD still remains, you come to lecture every morning, you study a number of "modules" at a time which are integrated (e.g.. if it is 2nd year and you are studying cardiology, you will olso have a module in cardiac pathology, a module in cardiac pharmacology, along with the modules for other subjects you may be studying at the same time like pulmonology). Everybody in the pathway gets a packet of lecture notes, which vary widely in quality depending on the professor. Some professors simply photocopy their powerpoint slides and there is hardly a point to coming to lecture, some profs copy their slides but it's hard to decipher them unless you go to lecture and/or the prof gives hints about what topics might be emphasized on the test and on the boards, some profs give you essentially a lecture outline where you fill in the blanks as he lectures, and some profs give you a handout of something that seemingly bears no resemblance to what he's talking about. Then, everyone takes the test on the same day, and you are judged only relative to the other students in your same pathway (i.e. comparing LD students to ISPers is apples to oranges). The possible grades at OSU are honors, letters of commendation, satisfactory, and unsatisfactory. You get that grade for the entirety of either first year or second year based on your cumulative average -- top so-many in your pathway get honors (I think it's ~15%?), the next so-many (the next ~15 %?) get letter of commendation, the rest get satisfactory, unless you fail. (During third year, honors and letters are awarded rotation-by-rotation, but during 1st and 2nd year it's all-or-nothing).

From what I understand, the ISP program has not been significantly changed. You get a big packet of notes and assigned readings in prescribed textbooks. There are specific learning objectives and questions for each module that each student should make sure they master before they go to take the test, so this should standardize what ISP students learn about the topics. And from what I understand, ISP students have traditionally performed comparably to LDers on the USMLE. Some points: there is a suggested schedule for ISP but you have some flexibility. Already know biochemistry but have trouble with pharmacology? You can whiz through your biochem module and use the extra time you've earned to nail down pharm. Motivated to have as much time to study for USMLE step 1 as possible? You can race through everything, have 2 months to study for the boards, take them early, and then go on vacation.

One logistical point: everyone in every pathway spends the first 12 weeks doing gross anatomy. Following that, you start on your pathway. I think for some amount of time at the beginning, you are able to switch between LD and ISP. After that, you become "locked in" for the year. Between 1st and 2nd year, you can switch from LD to ISP and vice versa (there were a handful of students going in each direction during my time). Then, once 2nd year starts, you are again "locked in" to your pathway, until you finish med 2, take your boards, and then start med 3 with all of your classmates (pathway no longer matters at that point, once clinical rotations start). So, there are people who swear ISP is better (for them), those who swear LD is better, those who swear 1st year ISP and 2nd year LD is the best, and those who swear 1st year LD and 2nd year ISP is the best.

Some of the arguments for ISP: certainly good if you are a non-traditional med student with kids at home. You don't have to go to lecture so you can study at home. Hate getting up early? You can study until 4 am every day and sleep until noon if you want. Rather study on the beach than in a the medical library? ISP makes it possible, just show up for your test. Never get anything out of lecture anyway? You're all set. Maybe you know one subject really well but want to spend more on another, or you want to get done early -- ISP flexibility is for you. Others argue that in lecture, you never really learn anything, you just learn what it is you're going to have to go home and learn about. That can be frustrating in LD when you spend much of your day in the mentally tiring exercise of paying attention to complex material, but you still have to go read the textbook to understand it. In ISP, you get it straight from the textbook and notes to begin with and you don't have to waste time in lecture. ISPers traditionally tease the LD students about needing to have the material spoon-fed to them.

LDers claim certain advantages too: first of all, you actually have lectures from professors in the field. You can ask questions right then and there. ISP students can ask questions too, but they either have to email or seek the profs out. Some people feel like they have to do LD or else they'd go crazy with knowing how much tuition they're paying to go study on their own -- like some MD correspondence school. Some just learn better when they're sitting in front of someone who's lecturing them on the highlights of a given topic. For me, there was one big factor: the motivation factor. In LD, you all take the test on the same day and there is no negotiation. This was important because I basically never felt truly "ready" for a test and I always felt like a few extra days would help me a lot -- it would have been hard to resist the temptation to delay my test. At some point, you just need to suck it up and take the test even if you don't know the material cold, and LD made me do that. That's why it was right for me.

Your question about how people match: I haven't heard of there being a difference between those who did ISP and those who did LD. Certainly I know people from both pathways who matched at very competitive residencies. Theoretically, I could imagine that there might be some full-of-himself interviewer or program director out there who scoffs at an ISP student for going to "correspondence medical school" and penalizes him for that, but I've never heard of that happening. In particular, at institutions that have a history of accepting OSU students, they know that the quality of our graduates is high, independent of which pathway they did. The other issue is this: honestly, your 3rd year grades, letters of recommendation, and USMLE step 1 (esp. for for certain specialties) are way more important than anything about your 1st and 2nd year, so honestly I doubt the choice of pathway makes a difference for much apart from 1) how you learn best, and 2) what gives you the best quality of life.

To answer your other question: I'm very happy at Ohio State. The quality of education is high and in particular the clinical education I've gotten at OSU Hospital and Columbus Children's (I'm going into peds) has been superb. Although I had lived in Ohio before, I came to med school as an out-of-state resident (New York) and OSU has a great deal where you can become an in-state student (with all the tuition benefits) after only one year -- makes a big difference on your debt burden, as is becoming especially clear as I'm poised to graduate! Columbus is a great place to live -- OSU is a gigantic institution with tons of young people -- and the quality of student life is as good here as any other med school. Good college football too. If you are a trend-watcher, there are some cool medical things happening here at OSU. We have a big new heart hospital that is almost completed and they have just announced an intiative to broaden the scope of our cancer care (building on our existing cancer hospital, the James Cancer Hospital). We recruited a new dean from Hopkins a couple of years ago and he has a very specific vision of where he wants the med school to go, and this has resulted in greatly increased research funding, recruiting some heavy-duty faculty, and construction. Some have speculated one of his goals is to have OSU move up in its US News rankings because no matter how silly it may be, people use that stupid thing as a guidepost. Not sure if that's the dean's intent, but OSU is poised to do some exciting things in the next decade. I can't really convey to you the scope other than to say, it's not just lip service to "moving forward" blah blah blah, we're talking about real changes.

Okay, that last paragraph sounds more like an advertisement than I intended. Oh well, I feel like you can't just answer that question "are you happy" with "yes."

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