Upfront preparation will lead to greater success

Students who joined the University in January also had the distinction of becoming the first class to begin their OUM journey with the Introduction to Medicine course.

This new 12-week pre-course was designed to cover many of the topics students would have covered in a traditional pre-med course. A main goal is to introduce students to core concepts of biology and chemistry that students should know before beginning a medical school curriculum. The structure of the course also mirrors OUM’s pre-clinical courses – live lectures, asynchronous study, supplemental materials, weekly quizzes, and a comprehensive final exam.

“In essence, this introduction is a mini pre-med curriculum designed to help our students excel in medical school,” says Professor Randell Brown, PhD, OUM Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer.

While life and career experiences often provide advantages for OUM’s older, non-traditional medical students, that may also mean that a significant amount of time would have passed since they were in a classroom, perhaps ten years, 15 years, even more. In addition, some of those students may be coming to the table with little or no science background, namely college chemistry, explains Professor Brown.

“As the professor who teaches biochemistry, I can tell you that it is very hard to have your first experience with chemistry during a medical school course,” he says. “Since these are concepts that you will need throughout your medical education and beyond, we must assure that your foundation is strong.”

Team-taught by several OUM faculty, Introduction to Medicine will prepare students for their first basic science course, whether they enter the University via the e-Foundation 300 Track or the Basic Science Track which is largely geared toward students who need to pass the USMLE Step 1 a couple of years into medical school.

“The bar for licensure exams is very high,” says Professor Brown. “Regardless of where you live or plan to practice, there will be some form of qualification exam in your future.”

Term 2101 also marked expansion of the Basic Science Track courses from four-weeks to six-weeks in length. Each discipline in this track is an e-Foundation 100 course intended to prepare students for the USMLE Step 1 and its intense focus on basic science knowledge.

More than the sciences

In addition to course content, Introduction to Medicine will also help students identify their approach to study and strengthen their learning skills.

“We will help students develop the best way to make learning efficient, which can play a big role in success,” says Professor Brown. “This will essentially be a refresher on ‘learning how to learn.’”

These exercises will help students recognize how they approach studies, identify their learning strategy, and adopt helpful techniques. Tips for reading and retention will also be presented.

Perhaps most importantly, students will begin to learn the process of critical thinking. Professor Brown explains how important this concept is for medical students, as well as practicing physicians, as they learn how to approach decision-making, to understand and extrapolate information from a variety of sources and apply them to a larger picture, such as diagnosing and treating patients. However, building those critical thinking skills requires practice. The Introduction to Medicine course will guide students through that learning process, beginning with elementary exercises that will continue to build.

According to Professor Brown, the desired outcome for Introduction to Medicine, which covers fundamentals and fills in knowledge gaps, is to provide students with a smooth, low-stakes re-introduction to learning.

“We don’t want to throw anyone into the deep end of the pool. At the end of the day, we are assuring greater success by better preparing new students for the rigors of medical school,” says Professor Brown.

(February 2021)