Category Archives: Science Education
Twice in a row, Money magazine has listed the PA profession as #2 Best Job. And the #3 “hottest” growing profession. Well, it is no wonder that it is very competitive to matriculate into Emory’s PA program, ranked #3 nationally. Last week, several Emory students were fortunate to hear from Dana Sayre-Stanhope, Director of the program and Terry Mize, Director of Admissions about what it would take to be accepted by this program. For one, you need at least 2000 hours of contact time, directly dealing with patients to be accepted into the program. “Sick people,” said Terry, “you have to have dealt with sick people.”
It is clear that service plays an important role in evaluating the applicant. On average, successful applicants demonstrate 5800 hours of direct health experience. During their 28 months at Emory, PA students spend almost as much time in community and humanitarian service. There are more women than men in the program, with high GPAs (average 3.4), 10% have Master’s degrees and GRE scores of 1100. Oh, did I mention, the 1100 compete for 50 seats! Phew. The hopefuls in the room were glad to have an opportunity to meet and mingle with current PA students. One of them, Kathryn Aiken, a second year PA student, originally from University of Florida said to me, “Tell your students to shadow a PA. It is not enough to shadow a doctor. Their interviewer will want to know why they are interested in a PA, not MD or nursing. And they need a convincing answer.”
I was so impressed by Dr. William McDade’s compelling presentation to Emory college students yesterday. Dr. McDade is an MD, PhD, and serves as Deputy Provost for Research and Minority Issues and Associate Professor of Anesthesia & Critical Care at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. I hope the students in the audience heard him clear and loud. “We look for a story,” he said. Pritzker looks beyond grades to find the human in the numbers. “We want to hear, what makes you remarkable?” Like every other school, when they are trying to “make the class”, they have a strong focus on diversity. “Diversity breeds excellence.” he went on to say. If I was a premed, I would listen.
Very specifically and very clearly, Dr. McDade told the students in the room that he sees students taking the most rigorous science courses they can find in an effort to impress admissions committees. While that is good, he adds, “Don’t go crazy. Take the premed core and do something else. Learn about compassion, ethics, literature. Learn how to relate to people.” One significant competency needed by successful physicians is collaboration skills and Dr. McDade emphasized the need for college students to develop this skill. “Learn how to be in a team.”
Don’t you see this as another definitive vote of support for significant role of a liberal arts education in preparing future physicians? Is this not another argument for why we want our premeds, our future physicians to be, not only able to handle the science, but also have learned about being human through intellectual engagement with subjects like ethics, philosophy, history and experiential encounters that build the skills of compassion, collaboration and caring? Premeds, are you listening?
Where is a teacher to turn when he or she is assigned to teach an AP course, in Calculus. Well, try one of the OpenCourse ware courses says, Susan Gilleran, a seasoned educator from Ann Arbor Michigan. She recommends MIT OCW’s Introduction to Calculus. (http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mathematics/18-01-single-variable-calculus-fall-2006/)
What is OpenCourseWare you ask? The concept of sharing educational resources freely around the world, referred to as “open education resources (OER)” or “open courseware“, is now gaining mainstream acceptance both inside and outside of the academy and has been adopted by over 200 higher education institutions worldwide. According to the OpenCourseWare Consortium (OCW), open education has three main advantages: access and distribution of knowledge to regions of the world where higher education is not readily available; recruitment and retention of students, as well as curriculum development and research collaboration among faculty; and sustainability of interest in and access to higher education. The OCW Consortium offers thousands of free, high-quality courses, developed by hundreds of faculty, used by millions worldwide. OCW is attractive to students (42%), self-learners (43%), and educators, with large numbers (46%) of users from the US.
The largest OER provider is the OpenCourseWare (OCW) Consortium, which includes over 200 universities that are making thousands of courses and other materials available online via web sites, iTunes U, and YouTube EDU. Some of the world’s best institutions of higher learning offer their courses on OCW, MIT, Yale, Berkeley, University of Korea, Johns Hopkins, U Michigan, U. Delft to name a few. These courses are immensely popular; MIT’s well-known OCW site gets 9 million unique visitors. About 40 to 45 percent of OCW users are traditional students (15-24 years old), another 40 to 45 percent are professionals and independent learners, and the rest are teachers, educators, and others.
For the K-12 community, Open Educational Resources and the OCW content offer educational enhancement opportunities at several levels. Course material on all manners of subjects is freely available and downloadable in different formats and can help teachers better prepare themselves or improve and enhance their instructional content. Consider this:
- For teachers being asked to teach a relatively new subject or just reenergize, (a Math teacher being asked to teach Physics- does it ever happen?)
- For students wishing to prepare for AP exams or college level courses
- For high school students wanting to explore a new subject, anthropology?
- For college-bound students in the process of applying, wishing to learn about the institution and its academic environment, well, you have the insider’s view now.
What is missing on OCW courses are the people to answer questions and chat with. Recently, OpenStudy, a company that I co-founded, offers way for learners on OCW to meet and chat and learn together and fills that very need. Why study alone when you can study together? There are 5000 others like you studying Single Variable Calculus on OpenStudy’s study group for this course. Check it out and let me know. (http://openstudy.com/channels/MIT+18.01+Single+Variable+Calculus+%28OCW%29)
In a conversation at the Stanford Global Entrepreneurs Challenge held in Singapore, Kawasaki held forth about all three. Paraphrasing wildly,
On education:When you educate young minds that the best thing that can happen to them is to land a government or a MNC (Multinational) job, why are you surprised that they dont want to be an entrepreneur? They are not prepared for it. ” In America, if you work for a large company for a long time, people ask why. In Singapore, if people leave a large company, people ask why. This is a huge difference.” He also said that the educational system, great though it is, has not really focused on “being creative” which as we all know is essential for entrepreneurship.
On entrepreneurship in Singapore, I have to say Guy is more enthusiastic. He notes that resources are being deployed and that the government has decided to pursue this trail, and we know
Singapore’s track record when the Government decides to pursue something. (This is the country whose per capita GDP was three digits a few years ago and look at them now! Wow!) But some things like regulations will have to ease up.
The best quote though, came at the end, when he was asked whether
Singapore’s small size would be an obstacle. “They have to go international” he said and added in pure Kawasaki-ese, ” Israel has five million people, six million entrepreneurs, and fifteen million opinions. Singapore has five million people, six entrepreneurs, and one opinion.” but he concludes, “If Israel can do it, why can’t Singapore?”
So look out Silicon Valley, here comes Singapore Island. Agree or disagree?
Today (October 18) in a rare moment, His Holiness the Dalai Lama explained the background for why he encouraged teaching monks modern science. At a lunch at Emory, honoring the science faculty and translators who have been working for three years on developing a ground breaking science curriculum for Tibetan monastics, His Holiness started with, “Let me give a little background.” He talked about how an early 5th Century BC university, Nalanda University, possibly visited by the Buddha, was the inspiration. Early scholarly works from Nalanda were translated into Tibetan and set up the framework of logic and learning that is followed even today in monastic training. This system of logic is ingrained in Buddhist teaching, said His Holiness. He said, people have asked him if science would not destroy religion. His response, “The Buddha himself said, Do not believe what I say because I say it, investigate it for yourself.” And for this reason, he said, there was no conflict between the inquiry based approach of science and Tibetan Buddhist monastic training.
Faculty from Emory, Georgia Tech and other universities have been teaching at Dharamsala the past two summers. The curriculum, initiated in 2009 by Geshe Lobsang Negi and me, has gained popularity and students. It is a two way street, as we teach the monastics modern science, quite often we are forced to reevaluate what we have taken for granted. “If I had an object shaped like a cone, would the force of gravity be different on the pointed edge or the flat edge? ” “When you talk about a cell, are you talking about its body or its mind? ” and so on.
To take it to the next level, we welcomed six special freshmen this month on campus, six monks wandering through introductory biology and chemistry with other Emory freshmen. I can’t wait to see their mid term grades.
Emory undergrads were privileged to hear Mr. Greg Vaughn, Assistant Director of Admissions at Stanford Medical School talk to them about what Stanford was looking for in a premed applicant. A standing room only crowd kept Mr. Vaughn for at least three hours, as he explained, took answers, fielded questions and provided information. There are several applicants to Stanford in this year’s Emory applicants, and we hope they were all present. Also present were many freshmen and sophomores, and Mr. Vaughn was especially welcoming to these early starters.
What DOES Stanford look for? I particularly liked the very first slide in Mr. Vaughn’s deck, “What We Value”. The answer is “Scholarly Endeavors, Clinical Experiences, Service.” In the next few slides Mr. Vaughn talked about how the application should bring out evidence of “originality and creativity” in academic and non academic activities. I also heard the theme of “Deep involvement in research and scholarly activities”. If you are considering applying to Stanford, not only should you have research on your resume, but you should also be prepared to talk about your research project, its impact on you and your academic career.
On Leadership, Mr, Vaughn shared with us a model of a Leadership Ladder, from involvement to advocacy to legacy. You start by attending a prehealth club for example, move to become the president, then become an active advocate for the cause, and leave a legacy behind that persists after your departure. For many in the audience the concept of “distance travelled” must have been reassuring; Mr. Vaughn noted wisely that when looking at applicants, Stanford considers where applicants started in their freshman year and where their academic journey took them. It is the distance travelled that is meaningful – not a list of activities.
Of course, most important, an applicant should be able to articulate what they hope to get out of a Stanford education, because like everyone else, Stanford is looking for the perfect “fit”. Learn about the curriculum. Learn about what makes this school of medicine distinct and different. Learn about yourself and know what you seek in your graduate professional experience. And be able to articulate that!