Dr.Quiet

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Those of you who are currently medical students @ University of Minnesota-Twin Cities School of Medicine (MS1-MS4), could you please comment on what the pros and cons of this school are? Also, any information on how you would rate this school compared to the (US News) Top 20 medical schools would also be appreciated. Views from people who have been accepted or interviewed at this school are also welcome.
 

Adcadet

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I'm a second year planning my MS3-4 schedule, so a few pros come to mind:

- In your third and fourth year you get 24 weeks totally off, and of your 76 weeks you have to take, 20 are electives. I think this makes it a pretty flexible place for yeard 3-4.

- Lots of hospitals to rotate in. Outside of Rochester, we're the only game in the state (years 3-4 are totally combined between UM-TC and UM-D). Fairview-University, Hennepin County, Abbott Northwestern, North Memorial, Anoka, St. Mary's Duluth, Fairview Southdale, Gillette Children's, St. John's, St. Joseph's, St. Paul Childrens, Minneapolis Childrens, Methodist, Mercy, Park Nic clinics, Regions (Ramsey County), VA, and a few others.

Other stuff:
- Years 1-2 are Pass/Fail. Very very nice. Competition between students isn't significant, so you end up studying so you know the stuff for boards, for the satisfaction of getting what you think is a good score, because you're interested in the material - not because you're afraid you'll be the bottom 20% that gets "marginal pass" or some other mediocre grade. Top whatever % does get honors.

- Lectures Online (plus Knowledge Coop and Note Coop) means you can skip class and not miss a thing.

- People tend to be very nice, from students to the administrators.

- Year 2 curriculum is organ system-based, which some people (like me) really like. Yes, even when we were doing ortho and derm, my two least favorite areas, I still was glad we did things this way. Path is probably our biggest class, running from the brief summer term at the end of first year, through all of second year, and is really very well put together.

-Gross anatomy is short and sweet. For 8 weeks it's pretty much all you do (you do have a few embryology lectures, too). No time to let your body rot or dry out. If you love anatomy you can spend all day on anatomy; if you don't love anatomy you can get it over quickly. And the course is extremely well organized and well taught.

-The U of MN is one of the biggest, most complete Universities in the US. Professional schools in the Academic Health Center include medicine, vet med (excellent), nursing, PT, pharmacy (excellent), public health (top 10 school), and dentistry (excellent school); the greater University has just about everything else.

Cons: pricey state school, not all of the facilities are new, you do have to be willing to leave the University for parts of your training (even in first and second year), with the organ system-based MS2 curriculum you will have a bunch of lecturers who come in for one lecture only, and the quality of that lecture varies (more in presentation/clarity than content, as it seems course directors make sure they cover what they should).

Oh, and it's not a "top 5/10/20" school. But some people turned down interviews to top 20 schools to go here.

Adcadet
 
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Dr.Quiet

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Adcadet said:
I'm a second year planning my MS3-4 schedule, so a few pros come to mind:

- In your third and fourth year you get 24 weeks totally off, and of your 76 weeks you have to take, 20 are electives. I think this makes it a pretty flexible place for yeard 3-4.

- Lots of hospitals to rotate in. Outside of Rochester, we're the only game in the state (years 3-4 are totally combined between UM-TC and UM-D). Fairview-University, Hennepin County, Abbott Northwestern, North Memorial, Anoka, St. Mary's Duluth, Fairview Southdale, Gillette Children's, St. John's, St. Joseph's, St. Paul Childrens, Minneapolis Childrens, Methodist, Mercy, Park Nic clinics, Regions (Ramsey County), VA, and a few others.

Other stuff:
- Years 1-2 are Pass/Fail. Very very nice. Competition between students isn't significant, so you end up studying so you know the stuff for boards, for the satisfaction of getting what you think is a good score, because you're interested in the material - not because you're afraid you'll be the bottom 20% that gets "marginal pass" or some other mediocre grade. Top whatever % does get honors.

- Lectures Online (plus Knowledge Coop and Note Coop) means you can skip class and not miss a thing.

- People tend to be very nice, from students to the administrators.

- Year 2 curriculum is organ system-based, which some people (like me) really like. Yes, even when we were doing ortho and derm, my two least favorite areas, I still was glad we did things this way. Path is probably our biggest class, running from the brief summer term at the end of first year, through all of second year, and is really very well put together.

-Gross anatomy is short and sweet. For 8 weeks it's pretty much all you do (you do have a few embryology lectures, too). No time to let your body rot or dry out. If you love anatomy you can spend all day on anatomy; if you don't love anatomy you can get it over quickly. And the course is extremely well organized and well taught.

-The U of MN is one of the biggest, most complete Universities in the US. Professional schools in the Academic Health Center include medicine, vet med (excellent), nursing, PT, pharmacy (excellent), public health (top 10 school), and dentistry (excellent school); the greater University has just about everything else.

Cons: pricey state school, not all of the facilities are new, you do have to be willing to leave the University for parts of your training (even in first and second year), with the organ system-based MS2 curriculum you will have a bunch of lecturers who come in for one lecture only, and the quality of that lecture varies (more in presentation/clarity than content, as it seems course directors make sure they cover what they should).

Oh, and it's not a "top 5/10/20" school. But some people turned down interviews to top 20 schools to go here.

Adcadet
Thanks Adcadet for the detailed analysis. I just interviewed there a few days ago and fell in love with their program. The first years were raving about how supportive the second years and everybody else are. The only compliant appears to be the tuition.
 

Sancho

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If you can get past the tundra factor, the location is pretty sweet: large big ten campus + urban environ with a lot more urban pros (art, music, sports, mojo etc) than urban cons (whatever goes on in Detroit).
 

GDukin

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Tundra?

The Twin Cities have been having the most mild winters ever in the last 4 years. ADCadet clearly did about the best job analyzing the program. In case it isn't completely clear, a quick explanation of the benefits that I haven't seen elsewhere...

Lectures Online: LOL is just what it says. All of our lectures are videotaped (the projection screen) and the file is posted online under a password protected website. So, you miss a day (say you're skiing in Colorado, for instance), you go, download the lecture, and can watch it right on your home computer. If you use a nice little plug in for real player (2xAV, www.enounce.com) you can listen up to 2.5x the speed of a normal lecture...a nice review tool for those lectures you just couldn't catch in one go.

Knowledge Coop: A nice option for 1st year crammers...the 2nd years provide a nice synopsis of the lecures covered right before exams, as well as a detailed explanation of last year's exam answers. This is free to all 1st years

Note Coop: not quite as succinct as K-Coop, but it's a writen outline-format transcription/explanation of each lecture. This is something you pay to join (pay for the copies), and you write up one lecture every month or 2 (sometimes 3). A nice addition to Lectures OnLine when you miss a lecture.


As to the area:
The Twin Cities is great:
Sports: Professional Baseball, Basketball (men and women), Football, Lacross, Hockey (provided they ever play again)
A vibrant theater community, both big name shows as well as small theaters.
Big enough to have many housing options.
Four true seasons (yep, you'll get to know the joys of hot and humid to bitter cold, and everything inbetween).
One of the highest number of parks of any major metropolitian areas in the country.
Good job opportunities for those coming with a spouse.
Generally big enough to have anything you want to do.
Close to nature areas (camping, lakes, rivers, Boundry Waters, etc)

Drawbacks: Yeah, it gets cold, but whatever, you'll be inside for class!
It's not a huge city (is that a plus or a minus?)
Public Transportation isn't great.
Traffic/Sprawl is getting worse.
 

cchoukal

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I'll be graduating from the U of MN in a month or so, and for the most part, it's been a positive experience. There are a lot of ways to address your question, but I'll address a couple of things mentioned in earlier posts:

Years 1-2 are indeed pass/fail, but it's misleading to look at this as something to make your curriculum easier. While I agree there was a great feeling of cooperation, rather than competition among my peers, there's no way to know if this was d/t the pass/fail grading. You should know that in the p/f curriculum, you still get a score on a test, and those scores are all added up to decide whether you get honors or not. You can pretty quickly see how there are now three levels: fail, pass, and honors, which isn't really all that different from 4 levels (F, C, B, and A). Depending upon what the curriculum committee says from year to year, you might be divided up into quartiles for your residency application based on your test scores. So, don't get super excited about p/f; you still need to work really hard to get the best residency spots.

Which brings me to my next point: the really key piece of data is whether the school gets you what you want (the best residency spot you can get for you). It's nice to focus on the lecturers, the facilities, the atmosphere, and the USNews ranking, but ultimately it's about getting what you want for your career. Most schools across the country advertise that 85% of graduates get one of their top 3 choices. The U of MN is no different. Of course, some might argue your top 3 might be affected by which medical school you attend, but that wasn't your question. Every year, we send people to Harvard, Mayo, Hopkins, U of Chicago, UCSF, and other top programs for residencies. We match approx 1/2 into primary care specialties, the rest into other specialties. We match lots of people to competitive specialties like Ophtho, ortho, Gen Surg, Oto, Derm, rads.

Years 3 and 4 are extremely flexible, and there are pros and cons to this. When it comes to doing electives (read: rotations in things other than the big 6 or 7 areas) in the event that you might be interested in something like derm, anesthesiology, or something else besides medicine or peds, this is a HUGE plus. It's also nice to have excess time off for interviews. I interviewed in two separate specialties and really benefited from this. I met people on the trail whose schools gave them a grand total of one month off in the whole 2 years, and they had to use that month to interview. On the other hand, I have classmates who couldn't get into the Med I rotation until June of their FOURTH year. Every year, a few key people in admin have to fight pretty hard to keep this flexibility, and I think most students prefer it to the traditional 3-4 year design.

The culture here is pretty nice. People are friendly and generally pretty bright. The state gov't continues to put the squeeze on the university, and as such tuition has increased substantially in the last 4-5 years, making this the most expensive public medical school in the country at roughly $28K/year. Is it worth it? Geez, I don't know. Could I have gotten to where I am at a cheaper school? Probably. It's where I ended up and I certainly couldn't do a residency without it, and, the other places I was accepted were all more (private and out of state schools).

The city itself is really fantastic. I grew up in the burbs and live in uptown (young, liberal, fun area) now, and I've had a great 4 years. Anything you like to do (except the beach, I suppose) is possible. More theater seats per capita than anywhere outside NYC, thriving local music scene, great restaurant scene with a number of really world class restaurants, coffee shops with free wireless on nearly every corner (oh, and the medical school has free wireless as well), and the city lakes and parks are really a tremendous asset that I'll miss in Chicago.

Finally, take anyone's advice with a grain of salt. We all have biases, and our experiences here or anywhere will be different from yours. Ultimately, you'll do a gut check and go where you feel best, but know that there aren't really any lurking inadequacies here that no one told you about.

I'd be delighted to answer any specific questions if you PM me.
 
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Dr.Quiet

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Thanks you all for provided such detailed info about the school. Looks like all of you have pretty similar opinions about the positives of the school. What are the things that you DO NOT Like ablout the school (that haven't already been discussed, for eg. winters and high tuition)? Also, I heard that graduate /teaching assistantships provide little bit of a help with tuition (25% waiver). Do you guys think taking up such an assistantship is practical during the first 2 years? What fraction of your class opted for an assistantship?
 

dnelsen

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I will be starting medical school at the U of MN this fall. A couple more points:

The governor just put in a big increase in funding for the U of MN for next year. Hopefully this will keep the tuition increases down (maybe tuition will even go down ;) ). Also, the university freezes tuition when you matriculate (i.e. it won't go up).

The university is also beginning a strategic push to make the U of MN one of the top three public research universities in the world. This can only benefit the medical school.

Mass Transit: a light-rail line was recently built. It is somewhat limited in scope but it is pretty nice.

Weather: yep, it does suck :D
 

cchoukal

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That's right, the dean is experimenting with a guaranteed tuition package that will likely reflect annual increases of 4-5%, rather than the unpredictable 14-15% that it's been the last few years. As for the governor, he didn't "put through" anything. He proposed a budget (as did the house and the senate, separately) that has yet to be voted on. The way I understand it, his proposal is still far short of what the U wanted, but it was more than he proposed in the last 2 budget cycles (both of which represented historically huge cuts).

It's sad how the statehouse prioritizes the U so low, but it's not clear how this will affect the school's national reputation. Interestingly, the AHC and Fairview (the hospital company that is part owner in the U hospital) are working on plans to basically rebuild the clinics and a children's hospital. Those things, if done, will certainly improve the facilities. And I think there is some money next year to revamp the year 1-2 lecture halls.

Someone asked about assistantships, and they are a great deal finincially. Better health insurance and a tuition waiver, in addition to wages, are huge. My estimate is that fewer than 5% of my class took advantage of them.

Good luck.
 

dnelsen

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Thank you for clarifying my post. Re-reading it now I do see that it was misleading (but not intentionally so). The increase IS only in the proposed budget and has yet to be approved.

Thanks for the other info on the new lecture halls and hospital facilities...I was unaware.

I am also considering the research assistantship. Do you know why so few students opted to participate? Is it a limit on the supply of assistantships available or are people just too busy or not interested?


Thanks,
-d
 

cchoukal

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I'm not sure why, actually. I mean, it's a 10 hr/wk position, usually. I don't think there are a ton available, but I'd be some go unfilled. I think some people went directly to different departments to seek them on their own, and that's something that only a small # of people are apparently willing to do. I think I would have had a hard time doing a 10 hr/wk job on top of the first 2 semesters of medical school. Year 2 was a little easier, I suppose.
 

kiernin

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dnelsen said:
I am also considering the research assistantship. Do you know why so few students opted to participate? Is it a limit on the supply of assistantships available or are people just too busy or not interested?
I'm a first year at the U. I have to say that honestly, I don't know a single person who has one of these assistantships. There may be someone in our class who does, but I don't know them. My sense is that not only is it difficult to put in the 10 hours a week required, it's difficult to find an assistantship to begin with. I had one friend who attempted to get one during our first semester, and she had worked full time in a research lab before coming to med school so she had the lab contacts and everything. When she was trying to set up the assistanship, it turned out (I believe) that the lab needs to make a significant financial commitment in order to offer the assistantship to you... I think that the tuition break you get actually comes straight out of the lab's budget, which is a substantial amount of money for the lab if their funding is already tight. Effectively, the lab has to be able to subsidize your tuition. And I think that's on top of the hourly wage they pay you, plus maybe something they have to pay for your health insurance benefit. When my friend talked about this with her lab, they told her they didn't have enough money to go through with the assistantship. So, to sum it up, I do know people who work in labs, but not a single person with the research assistantship. I hope this doesn't make you less interested in our school because it's really a great place! I moved here from out of state and am very happy with this school for all the reasons listed by others above!