There was no Hogwart’s sorting hat in evidence. Instead, the first-year medical students were assigned to one of four new medical societies according to their career and specialty interests, learning styles and proficiencies.
The 50-student societies are a new initiative designed to maintain the medical school close-knit camaraderie, even in the face of recent increases in class size.
“We have always been extremely proud of the individualized attention our students get and their satisfaction in their relationships with the faculty and administration of the school,” says Isaac Wood, M.D., senior associate dean for medical education and student affairs. Wood speaks from the special perspective of a school alumnus – he was a member of the Class of 1982 – who joined the faculty and is now responsible for the students’ educational and campus experience.
In response to warnings of an impending physician shortage from national groups like the Association of American Medical Colleges, medical schools across the country have begun expanding their enrollments. This fall, the VCU School of Medicine’s incoming class numbered 200, a gradual increase from 184 in 2003.
“To emphasize our rich history and tradition,” says Wood, “the societies bear the names of four distinguished individuals with ties to the school.”
Faculty nominations were pared down to a top-10 list that was submitted to a vote among the first-year students. The four resulting honorees are: Mary Baughman, who was among MCV’s first female graduates; Baruj Benacerraf, a medical school alumnus who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology; Jean Harris, the first African-American student admitted to the medical school; and Augustus L. Warner, the medical school’s first dean.
The new societies will be headed by school administrators and faculty who will meet with the students individually to assist with academic and personal issues. The medical school’s new educational building set to open in 2013 will also promote unity within the groups by providing dedicated classrooms, small-group and breakout areas.
The academic year will culminate in a weeklong competition to be known as the Society Olympics. The society that demonstrates its academic and physical prowess will have its name inscribed on the Medicos Trophy, which takes its name from the MCV intercollegiate football team whose remarkable record included defeating William and Mary, Wake Forest University and Virginia Tech.