Pre-med student FAQs about OHSU

Feel free to judge me. Most people do when I tell them I applied to thirty medical schools. I’m only kind of crazy; applying to this many schools is not unusual for California residents, but I admit that I may have gone overboard when it came time to choose a medical school. I literally made pro-con lists and flow charts to contrast schools, and to do so, I had to ask a lot of questions and gather a ton of facts. It did organize my thoughts and helped me make an informed decision.

The problem with this method is that certain answers are absurdly hard to find. Talking to current medical students is often helpful, but students may be unaware of how other schools arrange their curricula, evaluate their students, etc., and thus may not be able to answer your questions or to contrast their school with others. Also, information such as match lists and Board scores are not always published online. (Suspicious? I think so.) Here are three questions about OHSU with answers I had to dig for last year. More to come in a later post.

1. Does OHSU use standardized patients?

Many medical schools hire actors to portray patients. Medical students learn and/or practice their interviewing and physical exam skills on these “standardized patients.” At OHSU, we do not initially learn physical exams this way, but we do use patient actors to practice. Physicians first teach us physical exam skills in our yearlong Principals in Clinical Medicine course and we predominantly practice on each other. Three times a year, we practice on standardized patients who provide us with immediate constructive feedback. Our performance is evaluated, but it’s a relaxed environment and actually really fun!

2. Does having grades make OHSU med students hypercompetitive?

NO, because we aren’t graded on a curve. Anyone who gets over 90%, for instance, gets Honors. My class is incredibly collaborative and supportive! People constantly email out study materials they have created so other classmates can benefit. It’s wonderful. Having grades does make me study considerably harder, which makes the support of my classmates particularly important before an exam when stress levels run high.  My hope is that the extra hours I’m putting in to my studies will boost my score on the USMLE Step 1 (“The Boards” exam) I’ll take at the end of my second year.

3. Does OHSU regularly use fancy mannequins in simulation centers as a part of their curriculum?

We learn by interacting with real people at OHSU and have plenty of opportunities for patient exposure. Every week, students are invited to go on hospital ward walks with physicians of various specialties to learn about their current patients. We work with physicians weekly through our Principles of Clinical Medicine course during the first two years to practice taking patient histories and learn about different medical specialties. Most of my classmates volunteer at a local free clinic. We were ranked third in the country for Primary Care by the 2011 US News and World Report. We learn the necessary skills to take care of patients mostly without the expensive technology…although mannequins do play a role in our learning.