Sunday, May 24, 2009

Administrative Academia

I think that I have recently mentioned that I've been sucked into the vortex that is the administrative side of running a medical school. I don't know how that happened (or why), but it did and, for the most part, I am intrigued enough by the other side of the coin to keep at it for a while. I don't think that I like it enough to give up teaching (I'm still doing as much of that as I ever did) and take it on full-time (= Deany Deans, Associate Deans and Assistant Deans) but for now it keeps me busy in my spare time.

One of the tasks that I have taken on is being the Ultimate Granter of Grades. What this means is that if a student fails an examination, the paper is handed to me to try to squeeze half marks out of it, all in the hope of pulling that student's grade up to the magical 60% pass mark. I don't particularly wish to get into the debate about whether this is wrong or right to begin with -- the Deans decided that it should be hard to fail medical school, not me -- but I do wish to point out that sometimes finding half marks is like drawing blood from a rock and it's not a fun or enviable task at all. In addition, much to my dismay, I have discovered just how hard it is to fail medical school these days.

A recent example: a question asked the student to identify a certain aspect of a pathology of the prostate gland. How am I to find half marks when the student starts off by identifying the tissue as a resting mammary gland? The answer is that I can't. However, it is then my job to defend myself to the Promotions Committee (composed almost entirely of the aforementioned Deany types) and explain very precisely why it is that I cannot pass that medical student.

If that defense process isn't enough to set my head spinning in frustration, more often than not the Promotions Committee decides that asking the student to re-sit the examination isn't fair being the darling already has summer plans that are taking them to Timbuktu or the like. The solution? The failing medical student is asked to write a Reflection & Remediation Essay (I'm not making this up) detailing why they think that they failed the exam, what they will do in the future to improve their academic standing and (here's the kicker) what the faculty should be doing differently to assist them in their remediation.

On that latter point, I'll leave you with a gem from a recent Reflection & Remediation Essay: "The faculty should set up a morning wake-up service for students who request it, because I know that I am not alone in the fact that my grades are negatively impacted by my inability to wake up in time for early morning classes/clinical skills sessions".

No wonder students have the mantra of: the only more difficult than getting into medical school is failing medical school.

I shake my head and walk away.


Cathy said...

Hi Dr. K., it is good to read a post from you. I admit, I know nothing about what this post is even speaking of. But, I do know that my 11 year old granddaughter knows when her alarm goes off, her feet better hit the floor.

Kendra said...

I think the "policy" of trying not to fail med students at any cost is pretty interesting. I first encountered it when I worked for the AAMC. I realized that school's are so terrified of having high attrition rates (it looks particularly bad when published) that they will do just about anything to retain students.

I ended up deciding to go to a Caribbean school, and I found their policies to be almost the opposite. Their admissions standards are much lower than US schools. However, they do not go out of their way to retain students. Yes, I believe they want their students to succeed, but they will not pass students who can't meet the bar. Accordingly, their attrition rates are 10 times, or more, higher than their US counterparts.

An interesting difference in strategies.

I could probably list advantages and disadvantages of both "policies" but this comment is already getting too long. :)

Anyway, good luck with your students. And don't forget to make your wake-up calls for them tomorrow! :P

Pending, P.A. said...

Physician Assistant school is also the total opposite. The two PAs that I work with both had at least 50% drop out/kick out rates. I think the AAPA is more concerned about only having capable people working as PAs, as to try to avoid giving the profession a bad name, since most people still don't know what PAs are.

The Hippocratic Oaf said...

Please don't tell me the school is considering investing in alarm clocks for next years cohort! Unbelievable cheek!

Midwife with a Knife said...

This just made me loose the will to live.

I will add that at my school, we were certainly threatened with the need for remediation should we fail a class.

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Dragonfly said...

Wake up calls? Good grief. Did that essay get a pass?

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medstudentitis said...

we most definitely had students in my class re-write exams, but, I've heard that people have been passed in clerkship blocks when their preceptors wanted to fail them.

I think some med students need to start acting a bit more like adults and seeing it as a job that they have to show up to.