_If you’ve followed any of my writing over the last year, you know it’s no secret that getting into medical school was my battle royale. 21 rejections and only 1 interview later, I’m here at McMaster Med. I’d be lying if I said that McMaster Med was my dream school when I started this whole process. Being perfectly honest, it was my last choice. I think it had to do with the fact that I was scared of PBL, or even that my upper year medical friends from other schools told me how ill-prepared McMaster graduates are. Either way, I was not happy that all my eggs had been in the McMaster basket.
It’s funny how life works itself out though. This isn’t the first time McMaster has been my last choice. Just six years ago, I was a bright-eyed and bushy tailed grade 12, who ranked McMaster dead last when applying to schools. But after stepping foot on the campus for a tour, I just knew. I had that “feeling”, the one that I belonged on this campus more than anywhere else. Fast forward through the most amazing undergrad experience I could’ve ever imagined, and here we are starting off a new journey at McMaster.
So what makes me so sure that I was meant for this program?
The people are incredibly nice.
I don’t know if it’s due to Casper (an online computer assessment that has to be completed prior to admissions at McMaster Med), or the rigorous MMI (multiple mini interview), but I have not met a single horrible person in this program. We have students from all walks of life. Think former law students, drama majors, new parents, or the people that got in after third year, we have it all. I think it’s this wide range of life experience that adds breadth and kindness to the program, that is probably unlike any other medical school.
Funnily enough, the reason I was so hesitant about McMaster med was the heavy focus on tutorial for learning. Our curriculum has limited didactic lecture time. Instead, we learn primarily in groups of 8 students. Each group is together for one of the five pre-clerkship Medical Foundations and is paired with a tutor. These tutors facilitate our learning (important: they do not “teach”). Each tutorial, we are given one or two cases that are include hypothetical patients and some presenting symptoms. As a group, we come up with learning objectives that we then go off and research on our own. When we convene at the next tutorial, we iron out the details of each learning objective.
I immensely appreciate the self-directed nature of this learning. If I know I am weak on immunology (which I am), I can spend more time on that than other biological principles that I am more comfortable with. Everyone can focus where and how they need it, and that is a huge win in my books!
Known as “pro comp”, this part of our curriculum happens once a week. We are in small groups of 10 and matched with two Longitudinal Facilitators. Unlike our tutorial groups that are only together for each Medical Foundation (roughly 12 weeks), we are in our pro comp groups for 15 months. In these sessions, we focus on how to effectively and sensitively communicate with patients. This is also a great forum to bring up any troubling experiences or stressors that you’ve encountered over a student in the last week. As someone who minored in the arts, I’m super appreciative of dedicated time to really work on the art of medicine.
EVERYTHING IS PASS/FAIL! Let me tell you how much I love learning to learn and not to get an A+. I LOVE IT A WHOLE LOT. We do have some formalized means for feedback and assessment, but none of them are “grades”. Almost all of our assessment if for our own growth and development. You can read all about the evolution of the McMaster Med evaluation process here.
This is how we learn the skills necessary to be a competent doctor. Our tutorial groups are paired with preceptors that are current residents. Here we learn things like how to take a history, respiratory exams, how to take a blood pressure etcetera. One of the most amazing parts of the McMaster med programme is early clinical exposure. THIS IS NO JOKE. On my third day of med school, our group got to practice taking a history on a patient who had been admitted to hospital. I don’t know of ANY other school that does that, and it’s really incredible to have that opportunity.
Across the board there are sceptics of the McMaster med programme. I truly believe that the world always works itself in a way that is the best for you. I am so humbled and thankful to be learning at an institution that has constantly revolutionized medical teaching. Here’s to a great 3 years!