Expanding Institutional Scope To Serve Students Better
Providing a strong student and customer experience is a top priority for institutions and colleges across the higher education spectrum. After all, students are better able to focus on their education when they are not worrying about satisfying myriad bureaucratic demands. City College of the City University of New York recently partnered with St. Barnabas Hospital and announced the launch of a fully accredited medical school to do just that, and to double down on their mission that creates access to education for underserved students and access to medical care for underserved communities. In this interview, Maurizio Trevisan, who also serves as the dean of the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education, explains why the Sophie Davis School is expanding into a fully accredited medical school and sheds some light on the challenges surrounding this transition.
The EvoLLLution (Evo): Why did you and your colleagues at City College decide to launch a new School of Medicine?
Maurizio Trevisan (MT): While this is a newly accredited school, the medical program is 41 years old. We traditionally offered a BS-MD program at City College. Students would earn their bachelor’s degrees from us and spend the first two years of medical school at City College as well. Then they transferred to collaborating medical schools—located across New York with an additional one in Ohio—where they finished their clinical education and got their medical degree.
With our new accreditation, students will no longer transfer at the end of the second year of medical school. They will stay with us, do their clinical education with us and graduate from CUNY City College.
This is a response to a number of challenges we faced over the past few years in placing our students into clinical programs at other medical schools, which have been exacerbated by medical schools around the country increasing their class sizes. As they increase their class sizes, there is less and less availability for our students to access clinical educational opportunities and clerkships at hospitals. The other challenge is that, in New York City, our students face a great deal of competition for clerkships. We don’t just have students from the other medical schools in New York doing clerkships here, but students from overseas medical schools as well.
Those challenges limited our ability to place our students using the collaborative model. What the accreditation has done for us is provide us with a committed and dedicated partner that will ensure that we have all the clerkship spots we need. Therefore, our students will not have the same struggles they have had in the past.
Our school has a very strong social mission and we have a significant interest in primary care. Under the collaborative model, there was a chance that students would do their clinical years at a different medical school with a very different medical focus. By keeping the students with us, we are able to continue to pursue our mission during the clinical years. There is no dilution of mission.
Evo: What are some of the challenges you and your team are facing now that you are transitioning into a fully accredited school of medicine?
MT: The challenges we are facing are mostly organizational challenges. The school, for the last 41 years, has been extremely successful. But now that we are accredited and providing clinical education, we have to clearly follow all the rules laid out by the accreditor. That means some of the things we have been doing for a long time need to be changed because we must be compliant. In essence, our first challenge is to reorganize ourselves in a way that fits the accreditation criteria.
The other challenge is to recruit faculty. We are recruiting new faculty, and this takes time, energy and resources.
Evo: Syracuse University is currently considering launching a medical school, but other local institutions have complained that there will be too many medical students graduating to find placements. How concerning is this issue for you and your colleagues?
MT: This is one of the reasons why having the partnership with St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx is so important. We are putting a shield around ourselves and are not dependent on other institutions’ goodwill anymore, to provide clerkship slots to our students.
The problems in upstate New York are different because there are far fewer hospital slots available to students.
The other important thing for us in this partnership with St. Barnabas Hospital is that we share the same mission: caring for the underserved. It’s not just a marriage of convenience; it’s actually a joining of mission. This, for me, is the real strength of the partnership.
Evo: What impact do you think transitioning to a fully accredited school of medicine will have on your capacity to recruit students?
MT: We have always had a very robust demand for our school. I don’t think this will impact our demand, but it will transform our student experience.
Under the collaborative model, the transition from classroom to clerkship was always a great stress for our students because there was uncertainty around where they were going and which school would accept their transfer. This transition is now going to be much easier because students will be staying in house.
Evo: How will the CUNY School of Medicine at City College differentiate itself from other medical schools based in New York City?
MT: We have a very unique mission, which is to provide opportunities to underserved students and to ensure graduates go back to serve their communities. This should provide some idea of how different we are.
Over the last five years, 65 percent of our students were African American or Latino. The national figure for minorities in medical education is much lower—around 12 percent. We provide a very unique opportunity for students who otherwise would not be able to pursue a medical education. Many of our graduates practice in areas of medical shortage. This is really what is unique about our school.
Evo: What are the most important steps you and your colleagues must take in order to take the new School of Medicine from concept to launch, which is planned for 2016?
MT: The biggest challenges we have to launch are reorganizing both ourselves and the way we do business, and bringing in the additional resources we need to recruit the additional faculty.
We have changed our curriculum to focus less and less on big classrooms, and more and more on self-directed learning and small-group classes. One of the challenges we have to accomplishing this is creating the new educational spaces. It’s much easier to simply put everyone into a single room for a class, but it’s less effective than having a number of small classes operating simultaneously. As such, with funds from the city and from CUNY, we are creating new learning spaces to facilitate small-class learning. We are reorganizing to make sure we have enough instructors and teachers to facilitate this method as well.
We are organizing all the clinical educational opportunities as well, working with St. Barnabas to create the clinical department and making sure we have prepared the faculty to teach this portion of medical education as well.
Author Perspective: Administrator