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On Diversity: In modern culture, most academic institutions have taken the term diversity and applied it to the racial makeup of a given class.
We like to think of diversity in a far larger, holistic sense—one that represents the diversity within every individual and not just the groups they represent on some statistical chart.
Datoo: Diversity doesn’t just have this one meaning, where you put people in a room who are all a different skin color. It's people from different walks of life, different ages, different interests. Hopkins is diverse in so many ways. It’s part of its core thinking.
Take the work you can do as a student; if you want to do international work, pick a country and you can go. And it's not just research. You can fight for community programs, open clinics in the city, and teach elementary school kids about health, which is something I did my first year…
What I love about Hopkins is that they really just look at your merit. It’s a completely meritocratic society. They look at what you've done, they look at what you can achieve, how driven you are, how motivated you are. They want their students and faculty to be diverse, have diverse lives.
For example, as a woman, I know they don't want women to give up family life, but at the same time, if they're putting this much effort into you, they expect you to give something back to them. Medicine has to be important to you. It doesn’t have to be your life, but it has to be important.
That’s the whole point of the institution; it's so great, so good at what it does, because it has the best people anywhere. These people aren't necessarily the best because medicine was all they did and nothing else, or they didn’t have kids. That’s not true. I think these were very smart, talented individuals for whom medicine was important, but not the only thing.
The only way we get segregated here is voluntarily, by what we want to do. The internal medicine people hang out together; the surgery people, the dermatology people—they hang out together. That’s why I love medical school; you don’t have to have another skin color to be diverse, you just have to be another human being.
On Research: At the heart of Johns Hopkins is our commitment to research, be it basic, translational or clinical in nature. Coming up with a research idea, finding a faculty sponsor, getting funding for your work—these are opportunities you’ll find available from your first day on campus.
Developing a research practice is an integral part of our Genes to Society curriculum, and we have the mechanisms in place for you to carry out any project you can dream up, whether i's in a lab, an inner-city clinic, or halfway around the world.
Many of our students say beginning research early in their medical school career has given them a greater feel for how lab work connects to clinical applications.
DeFontes: I like to learn but I also like hands-on things. I played the piano when I was a kid. I still play it a few times a week in the basement of the medical school to relax. I even like to mow the lawn. That’s why I'm leaning towards surgery, so I can work with my hands and gather a wealth of knowledge. But I will have to give up mowing the lawn.
Research opportunities for students are everywhere.
We get tons of e-mail from faculty looking for help on projects. There's actually a formal Web site that comes up for the summer, where professors post what they do and links where you can e-mail them. It’s literally a map of the world where you can click on a country and see what kind of research they’re doing.
That's how I got to do research on cervical spine instability with orthopedic surgeon Michael Ain. I clicked on “United States/Hopkins” because I wanted to stay here. I looked under orthopedic surgery, and it said that Dr. Ain was looking for people. I sent him an e-mail, met with him later that week.
When you're doing research, the faculty explain how they started out doing basic science work, then translating it into clinical testing, and eventually it became the standard of care. It’s pretty nifty.
The great thing is that you can come out of here after four years as a great clinician, but you can also have two research publications under your belt, or you might have started a research project up in another country.
It really gives people an edge when they apply for residencies, showing what else they can do in addition to being a great clinician.
On Traditions: The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine has a rich history of rites and passages. Some are just plain fun—can you say Turtle Derby?—while others, like our White Coat Ceremony, are pure celebration.
All have a purpose: to pass the pride and promise of a Hopkins medical school education to the next generation of physicians, who will hopefully make real the healing that was but the stuff of dreams to those who once walked these halls.
It's that sense of shepherding groundbreaking medical history into the present that makes Hopkins traditions so meaningful.
Chen: I tell applicants that it's really when you begin to see patients that everything you learn is going to stick and make sense, because now you have a face to put to every single disease or pathology you learn.
That’s why going on rotations here is amazing. You’re learning medicine from these attendings who people from all over the world fly in to see. You're also seeing these same experts deal with the indigenous population of Baltimore. And whoever walks in, you can see the same type of professionalism modeled by your teachers—they treat everyone with the same amount of respect whether they’re royalty or a homeless person.
As a medical student here, you just feel lucky to be part of that, to take part in their health care and know the health care they’re getting is top notch.
On your medicine clerkship, you present patients at the bedside just like William Osler, one of the most famous physicians in history, used to do.
The Oslerian tradition is to walk in, stand next to the patient, and present the patient's entire history and story to the team with the patient there, so the patient has a chance to chime in, to correct the story, and the entire team gets to know the patient. It’s the way it’s been done for decades—even down to the Osler residents wearing a special scarf or tie every Friday.
There’s a reason these traditions exist: These are things that are done well for patient care.
One thing I heard from an applicant, who put it so eloquently, was that even though Hopkins has all this history and tradition, they are most committed to the tradition of innovation and excellence.
Their biggest tradition is to contribute to medical education and medicine. That tradition is never going to get old. It’s always going to be relevant to medicine today. That’s the history that attracted me to Hopkins.
Nichols / On why a new curriculum was necessary: It’s necessary because science has changed and medicine has to keep up with this. In 2003, we asked how medicine would be practiced in 10 years. We spoke to a lot of people on campus including physicians, scientists, students, administrators, former patients, and also to people outside of Hopkins in industry. As the planning evolved we took into account the sequencing of the human genome. We were also aware of huge demographic shifts, the aging of the population, and the expectation for better doctor/patient communications. So there were all these scientific and societal issues that affect how doctors practice that caused us to rethink how we were preparing our students to work in that environment.
Nichols / On what is special about the new curriculum: It will be novel in the country in that it takes a systems approach to understanding all the levels of the human being: From the genes, molecules, cells, and organs of the patient on one end, to the familial, community, societal and environmental components at the other end…and the Genes to Society curriculum integrates all these various factors that explain why a patient presents to a physician in the way they do. The five-year development of the curriculum has been a complex undertaking involving hundreds of faculty, and it evolved out of a very careful look at where the biomedical science and various societal and environmental forces were heading. So I think we're well positioned to prepare our students.
Nichols / On the biological approach of the new curriculum: The approach we take specifically rejects the notion that there is ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal.’ Instead, it says that everyone is on a spectrum. Some of us are fortunately asymptomatic, but may have genetic predisposition to certain diseases that won’t manifest for many years, if at all. While others are already acutely symptomatic, perhaps faced with life-threatening disease. The old, traditional curriculum spent a year teaching ‘normal’ human biology. We’re saying now that no one is normal; everyone is on some kind of continuum and we need to understand why they’re presenting the way they do at any given moment in time. Even if they look ‘normal.’
Nichols / On getting students quickly into clinical settings: We're getting kids out of the classroom pretty much from the moment they get here. They're going to do a clinical skills course right at the beginning of medical school, and they'll be assigned to their own clinic and see patients after the first six months. And that clinical experience will act as a coordinator of the subject matter they’re learning in the classroom as well, so they’ll be able to integrate the two.
On the MD/PhD Program: To work toward a common goal, to be part of a dynamic healing team, is what collaborative medicine at Johns Hopkins is all about. In the MD/PhD dual degree program, students weave an academic path between the clinic and the lab, often pushing the boundaries of knowledge on both ends.
A wonderful jumpstart for a career in academic medicine, government-funded institutions such as NIH, or private research, the Hopkins M.D./Ph.D. path is unique.
Rather than treating the degrees as separate disciplines taken consecutively, the program is set up as a series of interrelated cores, each step reinforcing our fundamental belief that for medicine to advance, researchers and clinicians must see and treat each other as colleagues rather than competitors.
Zeitels: You have to ask yourself, Why am I looking at this protein and how will it fit in to what we already know? How will this impact someone's life?
Remembering this is a good motivator and helpful in deciding the direction of your research.
One of the things I liked about the Hopkins program is that you have the opportunity to be on the units before you start your PhD. Most schools don't offer the chance to have actual clinical experience before beginning the PhD.
Our program also has a lot of flexibility. While most students become involved in their PhD research after their second year, some decide to do their third year of medical school before beginning their PhD.
Even while you’re doing your basic science PhD, you continue to be involved with clinical medicine. Every month a professor presents a medical case to students in the MD/PhD library so they can keep up their clinical skills. Everyone is invited, which is nice because it encourages interaction between students in every year of the program.
While we are in our PhD years, we can also do a longitudinal clerkship that allows us to work with a physician in a clinic setting once a week. Some students have followed a particular patient for years in the outpatient setting; you’ll write your notes and the attending will go over the notes with you.
The truth is, a lot of other schools don’t integrate their MD/PhD program as well as Hopkins. On the research side, it was important for me to find a place with a collaborative environment. The environment here is cooperative, not competitive. Researchers here talk openly about how they work with other scientists and the important role it plays in their own research.
During my first research rotation I was helped out by people in three or four labs other than the one I was working in. Additionally, a number of MD/PhDs are working with two different principle investigators, creating their own unique projects. The environment is very collaborative and open to helping students, whether it's a principal investigator’s own students or someone else's.
The MD/PhD program here is strong, tight-knit, with lots of support and a great director.
On the MD-Public Health Programs: It might come as a surprise that, on average, our medical students take 4.7 years to graduate. The reason? We've learned that the most successful students are often those who take time to explore research and educational options that can enhance—and often guide—their career choices.
Two such programs, the MD/MPH (master’s of public health) and the MD/MHS (master’s of health sciences), combine the power of a Hopkins medical education with the mind-expanding experience of public health work through a year of free (yes, we said free) study at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Whether it's adding epidemiology expertise to your resume, studying public policy, or spending time abroad on an international public health project, the MD/MPH and MD/MHS are wonderful ways to see how your medical school education can affect not only individuals, but also entire populations.
Cettomai: I can remember the exact moment I decided to go into medicine. I was sitting in the hospital with my mom, who had advanced multiple sclerosis. I was 16. She needed total care, and we had made a commitment as a family that it was important to take care of her, to keep her home with us.
A doctor came in with some test results and completely ignored my mom. He only talked to my dad and nodded a little toward me. It was as if he thought that my mom, being sick, somehow wasn’t able to comprehend what was going on.
My mom was so upset after that, and I realized that having a good doctor who cared could make such a difference in a patient's care. I decided then and there that I wanted to become a doctor.
I knew I wanted to pursue epidemiology at some point to help my neurological research work, but I had originally envisioned doing it during fellowship. When I realized I could do it now for free, I figured it was a great opportunity. I ended up having a life-changing experience.
I went to a rural mission hospital in western Kenya, doing an elective rotation in tropical medicine. I came back much more interested in the international health aspects of public health.
There's such a huge need for neurologists in Sub-Saharan Africa. Kenya has 10 neurologists for 33 million people and they're all in Nairobi, so the rest of the country has no access to them. Zimbabwe has one neurologist for only half a day a week because they walk across the border and hold a clinic.
My goal now, after my fellowship in neurology, is to continue in HIV and neuro work with the ultimate goal of traveling back to Africa and developing an infrastructure to create programs to train neurologists in those countries.
If you had told me four years ago that, a) I'd be getting a public health master’s right now in addition to my M.D, and that b) I'd be on a career trajectory to be doing international work, I wouldn’t have believed it.
But to go to Kenya during medical school, to have my eyes opened to the problems there and the ways my skills and abilities might solve them, to come back and have the opportunity to go to Bloomberg to get more training to better address those problems, to have the flexibility to take more time, perhaps do more work with a neurologist who can help me in terms of career development—when I finish Hopkins, I will have crystallized my goals and be in a position to pursue them successfully.
On Colleges and Mentors: Many students say one of their greatest fears in coming to medical school is that they'll suddenly feel like a stranger in a strange land.
We take those concerns seriously, recognizing that for students to flourish as physicians, professionals and people, they need constant access to trusted mentors from whom they can learn clinical skills, model behaviors, and receive common-sense advice.
To foster these relationships, we launched the Colleges Advisory Program (CAP).
Under CAP, each incoming class is divided randomly into four “colleges” of 30 students. Groups of five students then receive a faculty adviser chosen after a rigorous selection process, including recommendations from previous students.
These mentors and their groups become a daily team for the student's entire medical school experience, discussing cases, coming up with diagnoses, exploring the classroom and clinical setting together as colleagues.
Tang: That's why the dual-degree program at Hopkins was a perfect match; I could use my creative juices for making research discoveries while having the privilege of speaking to patients and doing what I could do with my medical training to treat and heal them and manage their care.
My first two years here were before the CAP program started. We had advisers, but they were removed from day-to-day learning. The first-year preceptorship was more of a shadowing experience where volunteer faculty showed you around the hospital but didn’t teach you much. And we were informally assigned a “big sibling,” but mine was so busy that I didn’t want to e-mail or call her with questions.
Now, the peer program puts on special programs every time someone moves from one part of the curriculum to another, and they put on transition programs to teach basic things about functioning in the hospital setting, things that weren’t always taught.
The Colleges faculty want you to do the best you can on the units, want you to learn, say, to listen to a heart properly because you'll be doing that for real the following year. But they’re also academic, personal and career advisers, so they want to know outside of school how you’re doing with your personal and family life.
The Colleges program is a big part of the new curriculum. In the new building there's an entire area for each college and offices for faculty advisers to meet and teach their students.
On Residents: We're just as proud of our residents as we are of our distinguished faculty. We find it odd that many medical schools never mention their residents to aspiring medical students, yet residents—at least at Hopkins—play a vital role in nurturing our student's careers.
While many Hopkins students naturally want to emulate their professors, it's the residents they can most relate to as living examples of the next step up the career ladder. Not only are the residents practicing medicine day-in, day-out, they're the crucial link in the educational chain, showing students how to translate their classroom knowledge into the clinical setting.
This ability for medical students to spend innumerable hours with helpful, devoted contemporaries is a very special part of the Johns Hopkins experience.
Brown: I've never felt lost among the sea of trainees here. Everything they did felt intentional and personal.
Some of the other places I looked at felt more impersonal, more like, we’re grand, and don’t you want to come be with us? Hopkins felt like, we think you can be grand.
These are the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life and they believe in me. I can be myself and learn great medicine, practice great medicine and do it with incredible people.
The dedication of the residents here to teaching makes for an amazing experience for medical students. We don't think of them as bothering us or just tagging along. We see it as our responsibility to train them and teach them.
When students rotate with me in internal medicine, even if they tell me they’re going to be surgeons, I take it as my responsibility that I need to teach these surgeons everything they need to know about internal medicine for the future.
I remember when I was in medical school and getting my pager for starting on the units. I was so excited, like ‘somebody page me!’ I remember that sense of anticipation, to stand on rounds in internal medicine and feel like they were talking this different language. I didn't even know what the basic terms meant, let alone how to apply it or make a plan about what to do. I remember those experiences so vividly and the residents who took time to teach me things. They believed in me. Now I get to turn around and do it for someone else. It’s pretty magical.
At least 30 to 40 percent of residents are like me: Hopkins graduates who decided to do residencies here and stay within the Hopkins system. There's this neat identification with my students because I understand all the challenges that they’re facing, the internal struggles, the external struggles, so there’s a real sense of camaraderie.
I remember looking up to my residents and thinking, I'll never know as much as them. And now I'm there. It's a cool transition and progression. I think the fact that a lot of residents stay around Hopkins gives us that same sense of dedication and responsibility, because someone did it for me, and now I can do it for someone else.
Weiss / On the type of applicants he seeks: We’re looking for future leaders both clinically and scientifically. It doesn't necessarily mean you have to win the Nobel Prize; you could be a great clinical scholar as well. We look for potential in leadership; leadership in college and before portends leadership in medicine as well. We look for excellence academically, but we don't get completely caught up in grades and scores, especially if applicants have other evidence of academic competence. You have to have a nimble mind.
Weiss / On the attitude he looks for in applicants: Altruism is a key here; service and compassion and humanism are all things we look for in applicants. That's what this place is about. This whole institution was founded on the basis that we take care of anybody who comes in.
Weiss / On the diversity of the student body: We’re proud of the diversity of the student body. Not just ethnically or by gender, but everything. We have 65 to 70 colleges represented in each class. They come from everywhere, not just the Ivy League. And from every walk of life, from abject poverty to those well off. Also, we have people with experience from so many areas of life. One of my favorite students of all-time is now a psychiatrist here; before that she was a cop, a detective on the Chicago police force for a decade. We have fisherman from Alaska. We have harp players. And, of course, scientists as well. The diversity brings a degree of cultural competence to everyone.
Weiss / On coming to school in an inner-city Baltimore. I’ve seen more and more applicants who are enthusiastic about coming here because they can provide care to the underserved. A lot of these students go into Public Health and do health care disparities and things you think might be a little bit arcane for medical school, but which really have a tremendous impact on how the underserved are taken care of.
Handy / On how the faculty supports medical students on rotations: The faculty treats you like a future colleague. The doctors training us use the term ‘we’ with the students even though ‘we’ aren’t on the same level. But the faculty members I’ve interacted with so far treat you as part of the team taking care of the patient, and they make sure that your input in that situation is considered very relevant.
Handy / On choosing a single career path: It’s not easy. You meet people who are so passionate about what they do that you end up getting excited about everything. Even pathology, which is looking at slides and using microscopes…that wouldn’t have sounded exciting to me before starting medical school, but now I've met some brilliant pathologists who make you realize how important that is to clinical practice, so now I’m doing a rotation in pathology.
Handy / On learning clinical practice through work with volunteer patients. A lot of schools don't use patients, they use actors. Here that’s not usually the case. They bring us into the hospital to work with patients who volunteer to have us come in and learn with them. A simple thing like doing a full physical exam on a person who has been bedridden for three days is a lot different than doing an exam on an actor who is up and hopping around.
Harun: It seems everyone in our class is involved in something besides school, all these other great things.
I always had an interest in global health, looking for ways to help people worldwide, so I’m involved with SHARE, which stands for Supporting Hospitals Abroad with Resources and Equipment. We collect unused but sterile operating room supplies that would otherwise be thrown away, like unopened gloves, sutures and bandages.
Physicians and nurses collect these unused surplus goods and we pick them up, sort them and distribute them through a Hopkins-based partner to the developing world.
Also, when any Hopkins student is going on a medical mission anywhere in the world, we can give them a care package to take.
Thomas / On the move towards emphasizing behavioral and social sciences in the curriculum:Some people like to talk about the art of medicine. That definitely has an impact on health care outcomes. I think one thing that happened in the latter half of the 20th century with the emphasis on the biomedical sciences was that the pendulum shifted a little to far away from what we realized were key aspects of care, of making healers. I think the pendulum is shifting in the other direction now and we’re right there with it, carving out that time to teach the behavioral and social science aspects of medicine as well.
Thomas / On the use of intercession weeks to teach non-biomedical disciplines:We have what we call intercession weeks that are devoted to topics that aren’t really owned by any core department in a medical school. You take something like Global Health or Pain Care or even Substance Abuse…there are many different topics that can be addressed in these intersessions as a public health problem that crosses disciplines and are solved by those disciplines working together. Students need to see that relationship, rather than having to wait to get to one particular place in the regular curriculum and to see the topic being taught by only one departmental entity.
Thomas / On tweaking new curriculum to find additional teaching opportunities: We also have what we call Horizontal Strands. We have faculty tracking every event in the new curriculum and ‘tagging’ it, so to speak, to see if there is an additional opportunity to teach behavioral medicine or public health or health economics as part of that topic.
Thomas / On emphasizing the power of collegiality in medicine: The message we try to give folks is that when you're working as a team, you’re much more powerful than you are as an individual. We start that process from the first week of medical school. The person sitting next to you may have been a social sciences major; they can bring a lot to the conversation, especially if you were, say, a neuroscience major. You each have strengths. The curriculum emphasizes that sense that wherever you go, you have to realize that you are part of a team and that you have to learn both how to contribute and to listen to what other people have to say.
On the Faculty: Your Future Colleagues: The number one reason students come to Johns Hopkins is our faculty. Simply put, they're some of the best clinicians in the world. But it takes more than that to be a top-notch educator.
Johns Hopkins faculty is unique; we created the three-pronged model that calls for faculty to be researchers, clinicians and educators.
We think that approach and exposure to different disciplines makes for dynamic, interactive teachers.
Perica: The three-pronged model was revolutionary: It made medicine what it is today.
These people are used to being challenged. They don’t have many dogmas because they’re used to dealing with students and patients and fellow researchers. When you can explain ideas to all three audiences, communicate in their language, you clearly have well-formed ideas.
Their concepts have held up under a lot of scrutiny, and yet it's also clear they respect their patients and students and feel they can learn from both groups. The ideas flow back and forth freely, and that shows up in the classroom, in our small-group discussions, and how faculty approach teaching us.
It’s great to be in this kind of setting. You ask the questions, they know the answers. It’s clear they’re used to answering patient and student questions. They’re not answering questions based on the way they should but because they’ve thought about the answers, tested them.
As care becomes more complicated and more synergy is needed between the bench and the bedside, you won't have the luxury to stay in one little world; you'll have to be involved in patient care and research.
To go to Hopkins, which pioneered this approach, is an amazing thing.
Shochet / On why the Colleges Advisory Program was needed: In the past we had volunteer advising program like most schools, but realistically it only worked for a small percentage of students. Our students perceived that they were largely alone trying to figure out this world of medicine. The students spoke about wanting informal engagement with an advisor versus a high level of formality. Their view was that formality created barriers to open communication and sharing of vulnerability and uncertainty.
Shochet / On what the Colleges program offers: What the Colleges program offers is a faculty member who is with you as both advisor and teacher over the entire four years. So there’s continuity longitudinally within each advising and teaching system. This is important because in the health professions role modeling helps students develop their professional identity as physicians. This central role model within this program can become the model for how to engage other faculty and physicians.
Shochet / On the faculty in the Colleges program: Before the colleges program the clinical skill course was taught by volunteer faculty. They did a tremendous job, but they would appear and then disappear from the student's life after the course was over. In the new version, we’re teaching in year one with their advisor, and we’ll have that same advisor over the four years working with them in the clinical skill setting episodically. So we’re starting with a strong foundation of a faculty member the student gets to know very well.
Shochet / On how faculty are chosen for the Colleges program: These are exceptional teachers who are passionate about their work and students. It's a very competitive selection process and students play a large role in their selection. To be accepted, a teacher must have a letter of recommendation from a previous student and submit it for review. Also the selection committee is comprised of students and faculty. In fact, the committee is at least 50-50 or mostly composed of students, so they have quite a say in the selection.
A culture-rich urban center with a small-town feel, Baltimore is a living microcosm of the triumphs and tribulations facing American cities.
Within eyeshot of the Johns Hopkins dome is Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and Fells Point, where 200-year-old row homes blend with modern lofts along a scenic seven-mile waterfront that’s the envy of city planners around the country.
Yet from the same Dome can be seen the challenges that face the impoverished denizens of East Baltimore, many of them uninsured, who depend on Hopkins for their health care.
It is this duality of progress and painful realities—of those who have and those who need—that makes Hopkins a unique learning and living environment for those students energized by the opportunity to practice medicine in the dynamic, thriving town we proudly call Charm City.
Karlo Perica, Third year M.D./Ph.D. student:
In terms of safety and how Baltimore looks, it's like other Eastern seaboard cities. A little smaller, a little older, and kitschy. I enjoy the neighborhood feel; a different neighborhood for each experience.
Fells Point is relaxed, a place to have a beer and burger with a buddy. Federal Hill (South Baltimore) is more raucous. Mount Vernon (Midtown) is artsy, a place you can see the symphony.
Safety is a legitimate concern, but Hopkins takes it very seriously. Our campus is probably one of the safest in the country. If you look at the statistics, you’re safer on our campus than you are walking around most schools. But, if you're going around at night, off campus, you have to be city smart and it's a legit concern.
But this is a real town, and it’s a huge draw for me coming to Hopkins. The poor community directly around Hopkins, America has decided not to look at these communities other than watching The Wire once a week. I spent a lot of my clinical time in a hospital on Baltimore's west side with few resources. The doctors there know a lot about their patients. And the patients were great—people trying to make their lives work, and you get to be part of that.
At Hopkins you learn how to talk to people who have very different backgrounds than you do. It’s real world. It's why I wanted to become a doctor.
Aisha Harun, Class of 2011:
I chose Hopkins because it was in an urban center, and Baltimore would shape the hospital in terms of the variety of cases I would see. I thought I’d see more here than in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. I know people have concerns about safety, but so far I love it. It’s great, a great place to study medicine and public health.
Ken DeFontes, Class of 2011:
I’m a Baltimore native and very proud to still be here. I love the culture; there’s a ton of things to do in the city, I love the mentality of the city. It's not as crazy as big cities like New York.
Steven Chen, Class of 2009:
People sometimes have reservations because of what they hear about Baltimore, but it's ultimately one of the selling points for coming here. As a medical student you really get to be involved with a population that needs health care the most.
There’s also so many opportunities to get involved outside of just the clinic. There’s an organization called SOURCE—the Student Outreach Resource Center—it's the umbrella organization for all the community service organizations around the East Baltimore campus. I've been involved in something called sports clinic, where we brought in kids from local elementary schools to teach them about sports and physical fitness and to get them off the streets.
So being here is not all about medicine, but about the overall well-being you can take part in with the Baltimore community.
A culture-rich urban center with a small-town feel, Baltimore is a living microcosm of the triumphs and tribulations facing American cities.
From committees to community service, student life beyond the classroom is part of the Johns Hopkins experience.
For many of our students, these extracurricular activities are a unique way to express their individual passions and often help inform their career paths.
Ken DeFontes, Class of 2011:
The opportunities to get involved with different things around here are so limitless that sometimes you have to stop yourself from committing to too many opportunities.
I’m involved with the Incentive Mentoring Program, which was started by one of our graduate students, Sarah Hemminger, to help kids who were failing at Dunbar (a Baltimore City high school across the street from Hopkins' East Baltimore medical campus).
The first IMP class took 15 kids who were struggling and had lots of problems in addition to their schoolwork, and all 15 got into college.
I’m working with a Dunbar grad who is now at Purdue. He’s done so very well. I keep in touch with him; give him counseling if he has questions. I help him like a big brother.
Steven Chen, Class of 2009:
What really impressed me about Hopkins was that they count on student input for everything they do. Every committee you can imagine has a student sitting on it.
I get to take part in the education policy and curriculum committee and actually get to vote on important measures on education and curriculum reform. I was on the grading policy subcommittee, so I helped formulate a plan to implement the new pass/fail system.
Even smaller things: I have friends on the art subcommittee, so they're picking out art for the new building; friends on the furniture committee, so they're picking out chairs for the new building to make sure they’re comfortable.
Every single decision that's made, you have the impression that students are really involved with the decision, because they really care about what we think.
The New Genes to Society Curriculum
Lots of people have asked us why we’re revamping our curriculum.
Given our pioneering work developing medical curricula—Hopkins created the educational model that became the template for 20th century medical schools—it's not surprising that when we first contemplated changes a few years ago, a common reaction was, if it’s not broke, why fix it?
While we understand that kind of thinking, standing pat just won’t work. Science and medicine are living breathing organisms that must evolve.
So we’re taking the best of our past curriculum—the emphasis that science and clinical practice work hand in glove to push medicine forward—and forging a new educational model, one that brings the patient’s unique and variable genetic, environmental and societal influences to the fore, making that the focal point around which all biomedical knowledge is targeted to promote health and wellness tailored to the individual.
Much of the curriculum is built around the advances in understanding the human genome. This includes sampling individual DNA to recognize how individuals are uniquely susceptible to disease, and, as our knowledge grows, recognizing what treatments are likely to work best with different individuals. A new, emerging field, proteomics, takes DNA exploration one massive step further, predicting which proteins a given individual will (or won’t) produce.
We are preparing our students to look at both a patient's biology down to the cellular level—in other words, not just organs, but tissues, cells, proteins, and DNA—and dovetail that with external environmental and societal factors to truly come up with an accurate differential diagnosis and effective treatment plan. This is especially important for patients dealing with chronic illnesses, an area of medicine long overlooked.
Instead of consecutive courses of rote learning that often isn’t applied clinically until months or years later, each course, each concept, is concurrently reinforced with clinical experience.
In this way learning becomes three-dimensional, and the natural question many students ask—Why does this matter?—is answered through patient interaction from the first day they step into class.
This constant ‘horizontal’ application of academic principals and critical thinking to the clinical setting continues throughout the educational experience, building a confidence level in our graduates that gives them an outstanding foundation for their residencies.
Here’s what Genes to Society will mean to incoming students:
Concurrent education in the first year in basic science and clinical medicine.
The Scientific Foundations of Medicine course places state-of-the-art basic science in the context of how patients vary in their biology and how they move between health and disease. Social and humanistic sciences will be included to show how these factors affect health and biology.
Simultaneously, the Clinical Foundations course brings students face-to-face with patients, as they begin learning how to conduct physical exams and speak with patients and their families.
Rounding out this initial four-month foray is the Patients, Physician and Society course, which gives students a global perspective of public health, a macroscopic view of how attitudes, policies, and resources affect patient care.
After this four-month introduction, students move into the formal 15-month Genes to Society (GTS) course. Instead of the old-school “normal/abnormal” paradigm, students focus instead on the range of functionality that bridges from illness to well-being. Broken down by organ systems, each section discusses core concepts in the context of basic science, biological systems and public health. For example, vaccines are examined from both their biological and cost effectiveness.
Concurrent with GTS, students begin their weekly Longitudinal Ambulatory Clerkship (LAC), which continues through most of the second year and gives clinical reinforcement to classroom learning.
Eight additional weeklong intersessions during GTS cover contemporary concerns in medicine that have a tremendous effect on patient care. These include patient safety, pain management, health care disparities and medical ethics (in year three and four these intersessions relate basic science to specific clinical issues such as cancer and diabetes).
The summer following first year, students choose their area of interest (AOI), which includes seminars and scholarship opportunities under a faculty mentor. These AOI’s relate to a specific area of the GTS course, including Basic Science Investigation, Clinical Investigation, Public Health, and more. The AOI choice leads to additional research and seminars through the third year.
As the GTS course comes to its conclusion, students prepare for clinical clerkships by taking the four-week Transition to the Wards course that focuses on pragmatic information such as ECG, image interpretation and team-building skills.
Subsequently, the Core Clinical Clerkships build on the previous Clinical Foundations course and the Longitudinal Ambulatory Clerkship work. Each clerkship includes preliminary weeklong Preclinical Educational Exercises (PRECEDE) specific to the clerkship that places the issues of our local patient population and broader societal concerns in the context of the practice of the core.
Following each clerkship is a weeklong Transitional Medicine intersession that has students and faculty discussing how observations inform clinical practice as well as the basic science implications of the student’s experience. In addition, critical thinking will be continually explored, particularly how the student’s mindset takes into account the patient’s individuality in coming up with treatment options. These intercessions will also be developmental grounds for potential collaborative research projects.
During this period, students will be encouraged to explore numerous elective rotations featuring flexible scheduling. Required rotations include the Advanced Clerkship in Chronic Care (in either Physical Medicine or Geriatrics) and the Advanced Clerkship in Intensive Care. In addition to clinical experience, care will be related to social and economic issues facing patients as covered by the GTS course.
Students move into more advanced levels of care, with a required subinternship in either Medicine, Neurology, Pediatrics or Surgery.
Just before graduation, the Transition to Residency and Preparation for Life (TRIPLE) capstone course preps students for their life ahead as residents, including tackling real-life moral, ethical, and practical concerns.
Basic courses in the first two years—all foundations courses, Genes to Society classes, scholarly concentrations, and all intersessions—are pass/fail.
Clerkships, Advance Clerkships, Clinical Electives and Clinical Subinternships are graded on a four-tier system: Honors, High Pass, Pass, and Fail.
The first part of the United States Medical Licensure Examination (USMLE Step 1) must be taken by September of the third year.
We believe that the Genes to Society curriculum will create physicians best prepared to meet the challenges of 21st century medicine.
By moving toward the real-world construct that every patient, to be treated successfully, must be viewed as an individual, our graduates will be positioned to take medicine to its next frontier: A place where medicine seamlessly shifts to meet a patient’s needs, whether it is to cure, to control or to bring comfort.
Armstrong Medical Education Building
A 21st Century curriculum deserves to be delivered in a 21st Century building. So it is that the $54 million dollar Anne and Mike Armstrong Medical Education Building, opening this fall to coincide with the inauguration of the GTS curriculum was built specifically to enhance both classroom and clinical learning. The building, right in the heart of the Medical Campus, combines the latest in technology and architecture to create an unparalleled educational experience. Split-screen whiteboards, high-definition consoles, and wi-fi internet access combine with intimate teaching environments and top-flight lab space to energize students and faculty and make the medical school atmosphere come alive.
Specifically, the Armstrong building reinforces the GTS curriculum by offering:
Suites for each ‘College,’ including study and meeting rooms, secure lockers, common lounge areas and kitchenettes;
Specially-designed rooms for discussing case studies;
Small group meeting rooms;
Teaching and anatomy labs;
Quiet reading rooms;
Comfortable lecture halls with laptop space and electrical outlets in each row;
Medical Library access;
Offices for staff from Medical Education, Medical Student Research, and Student Affairs;
Full service café w/indoor and outdoor seating.
The Armstrong Medical Education Building is part of our commitment to students (and ultimately our patients) to maximize the translation between academic and clinical learning, the end product being the finest medical school graduates in the country.
As the largest recipient of NIH research grants in the country, we know a thing or two about finding sources of funding for your education.
Our students receive over $40 million of financial aid every year in loans, grants, work, scholarships and graduate funding support. Students in the MD/PhD program often receive grants that cover most, if not all, of their tuition. Students in the MD/MPH program usually have their MPH tuition covered in full.
On average, our students graduate with a lower debt load than most medical school students nationwide. Our financial aid experts help you through the application process (and it’s important to remember that you need to reapply for aid every year, as funding levels can change).