What It's Like to Go to a New Medical School

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Two medical students answer questions about what it's like to go to new medical schools.

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Sara Roper

Sara Roper

Undergraduate: The Commonwealth Medical College, 2013


Matthew Joy

Matthew T. Joy

Undergraduate: Virginia Tech Carillion School of Medicine, 2014



Why did you decide to apply to your medical school?

Sara: I’m from Pennsylvania, and when The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) began accepting students, the hype in our state about the new school in Scranton spread quickly. I was contacted by several physicians from my hometown that encouraged me to look into TCMC and to submit my application. When I went online to check it out, I was excited by the values and goals presented in the mission statement, and I knew it was a place I wanted to apply.

Matt: I applied to Virginia Tech Carilion (VTC) for a few different reasons. The first and most important reason was for the small class sizes. I felt that the intimate learning environment would be more engaging and that students would have more access to facilities, faculty, and administration. So far, I have found this all to be true at VTC and it has made my experience here exceptional. I was also attracted to the school’s focus on research throughout the four-year curriculum. Finally, I was hooked when I saw the beautiful, new purpose-built facilities and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia.

Did you have concerns about attending a new school?

Sara: Of course. I won’t deny that I considered it a risk to go to a new school, but I knew that the LCME would not give [preliminary] accreditation to a school that wasn’t ready to produce knowledgeable physicians. As I got through my interview day, it was clear that the faculty and administration were dedicated to making us successful.

Matt: While I did take into consideration the fact that VTC was a new school still seeking [full] accreditation, I had total confidence in the resolve of the two institutions, Virginia Tech and the Carilion Clinic, to see this process run smoothly to completion. It helped very much to know that Virginia Tech is a leader in science and technology education and that the Carilion Clinic is a well established health system, which includes a teaching hospital that has been working with medical students for many years.

What do you think are the benefits? Risks?

Sara: Being enrolled at a new school has given me and my classmates the opportunity and privilege to be deeply involved in the educational curriculum and its improvement. It is a huge benefit to have the ears of the people above you, knowing that our concerns and suggestions do not go unheard as we all have our eyes set on a common goal, which is improvement of the school.

Matt: The greatest benefit, particularly as a charter class member, is the opportunity to help shape an organization and create new traditions. The biggest risk I’ve found is going through medical school without anyone ahead of you in your own institution to ask for advice.

How has it been dealing with the growth of the incoming classes since you were accepted?

Sara: The school has dealt with the influx of students appropriately, hiring staff where needed, and making sure the infrastructure is adequate to support the additional numbers. As
an upperclassman, it’s exciting to see the school change and improve with each incoming class. There is also a great opportunity to help the classes below us as they work through the same things that we struggled through.

Matt: At first it was a bit of a shock to go from having the entire campus to ourselves to sharing the school with another class. However this transition went very smoothly and I found it was actually really great to make new friends and see more people around making use of the amazing facilities. The fact that the school was designed specifically for our small class sizes meant that as we grew, students would always have plenty of space to work, relax, and play.

What do you think is the most unique thing about your school?

Sara: Our school has many curricular aspects that are unique, from our intensive problem-based learning to our third-year longitudinal integrated curriculum. What I love the most is that TCMC is truly a community. Our school works hard together with its community of physicians and hospitals to make a difference in our corner of the world. Being part of a new school gives students a unique chance to really start something. We have a chance to become part of a community, to make a positive impact on that community, and be a part of making our school exceptional.

Matt: I believe that the four domains (basic science, clinical science, research, and interprofessionalism) and patient-centered learning curriculum design is what sets
us apart from other schools. Students pursue each of the four domains over all four years, which means that we get exposure to research and clinical skills early and often to help prepare us for the wards. In addition, through weekly patient-centered, or cased-based, learning, the curriculum emphasizes the value of critical thinking and integration of all four domains in the clinical decision making process.

* Newly accredited by The Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)

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