Interview with Dr. Michelle Schmude, Associate Dean of Admissions at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine [Show Summary]
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine is focused on admitting students who are passionate about community service, as well as allowing as many students as possible to graduate from medical school debt free. Dr. Michelle Schmude, Associate Dean of Admissions, shares information about what makes the school unique, and what makes a successful applicant and graduate of the program.
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine: A unique program emphasizing community service and clinical exposure [Show Notes]
Today’s guest, Dr. Michelle Schmude, has spent her career in higher ed administration and med school admissions. After earning her BA in history and business, she went on to earn an MBA and then a doctorate in education from Wilkes University. Since 1996 she has worked in admissions first as Dean of Full-time Admissions at Point Park University, then at Kings College, and since 2015 as director and then as Associate Dean of Admissions, Enrollment Management & Financial Aid at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. She is also an Associate Professor of Medicine at Geisinger. Now that you know a little about Dr. Schmude, let’s find out about Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.
Can you give an overview of the Geisinger Commonwealth Medical School program focusing on its more distinctive elements? [1:55]
The school was founded in 2008 and enrolled the first class in in 2009. We have a few key hallmark programs that make us unique. First is the 100-hour community service requirement, which goes along with our mission of being a community-based medical school. We admit students who align with the mission of the school and are passionate about community service. Second is the family-centered experience, which pairs med students with individuals in the community experiencing chronic illness, so the students can follow along with the patients throughout their journey, which helps the students grow in empathy, kindness, compassion, and caring. Third is the two research programs that students engage in during years one and three. The first is a community health research project – partnering with local organizations to help identify community needs and design interventions. The second is a quality improvement research project to address issues within the community.
Is the community service component you mentioned non-clinical, or does it matter? [4:45]
Most are non-clinical, and students get really involved with the community. A few weeks ago our students hosted a Turkey Trot and raised almost $18K for Friends of the Poor. They raise funds for autism, do things both inside and outside of the school, host a health fair for the community, have a trick-or-treat event in the hospital – a haunted hallway so children are safe. Those are just a few. Some volunteer at clinics in the area.
What is the “distributed campus model” and does it shape the med student experience at Geisinger? [6:19]
The first two years of the program are spent here in Scranton and the third and fourth are out at regional campuses where students are participating in clinical rotations in the third year, and in the fourth year participating in rotations and away rotations where they will visit other clinical environments. Students apply and are matched to their away rotations and then spend time at other clinical venues.
What is the Longitudinal Integrated Curriculum? [7:52]
It happens during the third year. Students are doing their clinical rotations housed at their regional campus. For six months of the rotation they participate in the Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship – over the course of six months, students rotate through the six core disciplines once a week. The other six months is in a traditional block format rotation, spending time on one discipline of medicine and then going on to the next. It allows for continuity of care, and build relationships with clinical mentors and patients that they see. Blocks are a shortened period of time.
What is the ePortfolio? And how does it help med students? [11:16]
I was involved in creating it, and it is designed to track a student’s professional identity formation across their four years of med school. This allows for their coach to collaborate with students to track growth, because at the end of the day we look to produce respected practitioners. The ePortfolio plus the assessment contained therein, and artifacts put in the portfolio, help them to track, monitor, and reflect on their own growth in terms of becoming a future physician.
Within the med school we have a required professional identity formation curriculum, and there are assessments which are required within that. Students utilize them and put into the ePortfolio so a coach can work with that student to monitor but also help them work toward continual growth in their identity as a future physician.
What is the Geisinger Primary Care Scholars Program, and how can it help Geisinger students graduate debt free? [14:11]
This is a really exciting opportunity, and some articles have been written about it, including one by me. Within the Scholars Program there are two opportunities for students to come out of med school debt-free. The Abigail Geisinger Scholar Award (AGSA) launched in the spring of 2019 for existing students, and going forward each and every year we will have 10 AGSA students, where we cover tuition and fees for up to four years, and in return they give us four years of service in the Geisinger network. We also have begun the Geisinger Primary Care Scholar Awards, which are for 40 incoming students, where we provide four years of tuition and fees plus a $2K/month stipend while enrolled. Along the same lines as AGSA, since this award covers four years of tuition and fees, students agree to give us four years of service post-residency, however for this award we do have specific specialty requirements: family medicine, internal medicine, or medicine pediatrics.
Let’s turn to the Geisinger application: What is the Geisinger secondary like? Do you require the CASPer? [19:19]
The secondary is very mission-focused and mission-driven. We put it together with the intent to repopulate the physician shortage in this area, so it focuses on patient-centered medicine, community service, the ability to work well with an interdisciplinary team, and evidence-based research to deliver care. Our geographic community includes our primary service area – the counties that our facility serves primarily in Northeast PA.
CASPer is not required at this point. Our interview is traditional in nature, with a faculty member and student. So students are definitely part of the process in terms of who will be their colleagues. We are looking at the MMI to determine if that best aligns with selecting applicants who meet the mission, so stay tuned on MMI and CASPer, as I believe the CASPer does provide useful information about med school applicants.
Do you want the students you admit to have both research experience and clinical exposure? [23:00]
We focus on community service and clinical exposure, which ties back to our mission. However, if a student has wonderful exposure to clinical experiences and is dedicated to community service, and has a passion for research, I think they are a well-rounded applicant.
Geisinger received last year 5,780 applications for its class of 115 students. It sends out automatic secondaries. MSAR says that Geisinger interviewed 763 students. How do you winnow it down? [23:53]
We have a holistic process. We look at metrics, attributes, and experiences and how they align with the mission of the institution. We look for IQ and EQ to excel.
How do you view letters of intent or correspondence from waitlisted applicants? [25:12]
Applicants can submit up to two updates, and I suggest an applicant includes in those update letters meaningful experiences since the time of submitting their primary and secondary application. They can utilize a second update to provide us with any additional experiences they have engaged in so we have the full picture of their experience. By limiting to two we want to ensure they are meaningful.
And on a forward-looking note, what advice would you give to med school applicants thinking ahead and planning to apply in 2020? [26:40]
I would say to apply when you have the best application possible. The application is costly and long, and to just try it is not a strategy. You need to go into the process with your best application and that means your best metrics and your best experiences. I always ask students to reflect and look at their package and ask “What can I improve upon?” Identify those areas of improvement before they actually apply. It is a costly process both financially and mentally, and making sure applicants have their best application will help them through the process.
What would you have liked me to ask you? [31:10]
I was able to cover everything – I have a passion for the ePortfolio because I have worked several years on it, I highlighted the mission of the institution, talked about the interview format and research for future initiatives and our hallmark scholars program.
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