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Getting Ready to Start Medical School at CCLCM

Posted Oct 23 2008 2:04pm
Hi, and welcome to my blog. I'm inviting you to join me on my journey as a new Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine (CCLCM) student. If you've never heard of CCLCM or don't know much about it, don't feel bad. It's a small program, and it's fairly new. There are only 32 of us per class, so our program is much smaller than the average medical school class is. This year (2006-2007) is just the third year that CCLCM has been in operation. The program is a joint effort between the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine (CWRU or Case) and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation (CCF). We are officially CWRU students, and we will get our MD degrees from CWRU. However, several aspects of the CCLCM program (sometimes called the College Program ) are different compared to the larger University Program that most Case medical students take.

One thing I have to warn you about up front is that Case, and CCLCM in particular, is a pretty maverick school. None of our three curriculum paths (MSTP, University Program, or College Program) is a very traditional medical school experience. In this blog, I'm going to primarily focus on CCLCM, but I recommend that you research all three programs if you are interested in applying to Case. You can click on the links that I posted above for CCLCM and the University Program and below for the MSTP.

The first thing that you should know is that CCLCM is a five-year program instead of four years like typical medical school programs are. You're probably already aware that many medical schools offer combined MD/PhD degree programs, and Case too has its own NIH-funded Medical Scientist Training Program( MSTP ) for students who want to earn both degrees. The MSTP is ideal for students who want to go into medical research and become physician scientists. But not every budding physician scientist wants to go to school for the full 7-8 years that are required to complete an MD/PhD. The good news is that they don't have to do that. Five year research programs like CCLCM are a good compromise for students who want to get some research training but who also want to finish school sooner than they would in an MSTP. All CCLCM students receive an MD with Special Qualification in Biomedical Research from Case. Our program is also amenable to earning an MD/MS from Case; doing this basically requires taking a few extra classes.

Probably one of the most interesting things about CCLCM is that we don't have any grades, class rankings, or tests. That sounds pretty weird to a lot of people, because when you're a pre-med, your tests and grades are such major parts of your course experiences. There are even lots of med schools that give grades and rank their students, and nearly all of them give tests. But at CCLCM, we assemble competency portfolios instead. I'll talk more about that in a later post. Second, we don't have any regular lecture-type classes at CCLCM. Instead, we do all of our pre-clinical work in problem-based learning (PBL) groups, seminars, and journal clubs. Third, we don't dissect cadavers as first year medical students (M1s). Instead, we use prosections, where a resident has already done the dissection for us. Oh, and one other thing: we don't use preserved bodies at CCLCM. So there's no formaldehyde in our gross anatomy labs. There are lots of other unique and interesting features of our curriculum. You can learn more about the program at the CCLCM website.

We spend our first summer before M1 doing basic science research. So that means CCLCM starts a lot earlier than most medical schools do, in early July instead of late August. Orientation begins on Monday, July 10, and we have to be there bright and early at 7:30 A.M. Yikes; I am not a morning person. But I'm going to have to rapidly become one, because our PBL sessions are at 8 A.M. five days a week, for the next two years. We start our research and biochemistry seminars the following Monday, July 17. I'm so excited!!!

Right now I am getting myself ready to start school. I found an apartment here in Cleveland, and I'm starting to learn my way around the CCF and Case campuses. Wow, they're both absolutely enormous. It's easy to get lost. I need to do some more errands, so I'm going to sign off for now. But I wish you a happy Fourth of July, and thanks for reading. :-)
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