Day 93: Thoughts on the OUWB curriculum

Today’s inane image of the day:

On Saturday we had the opportunity to practice taking blood pressure measurements at the Michigan Institute of Urology‘s Men’s Health Event. At the end of my shift, I felt like a pro at it!

One of the most frequently asked questions that I get is about the OUWB curriculum and how it works. Since our class is only a few weeks away from the conclusion of the first semester, I think it’s an appropriate time to reflect upon what our curriculum has been like thus far.

First and foremost, the OUWB website shows that the first semester of M1 consists of 5 courses: Biomedical Foundations of Clinical Practice 1/2 (BFCP), Medical Humanities (MH), Promotion and Maintenance of Health (PMH), Art and Practice of Medicine (APM) and Capstone. I also consider the PRISM (Promoting Reflection and Individual growth through Support and Mentoring) program to also be a course since we do receive Pass/Fail “grades” on our reflection papers. Anyway, here’s a breakdown of each course and my personal thoughts/opinions:

Biomedical Foundations of Clinical Practice 1/2 (BFCP)
The description that is provided for BFCP1 (note: BFCP2 is just a continuation of the course):
This is the first of two consecutive interdisciplinary courses that will provide an introduction to basic biomedical science topics, establishing a foundation of the essential principles required for the study of human medicine. These courses provide integrated content in gross anatomy, radiology, embryology, histology, biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, genetics, immunology, microbiology, pathology, physiology, pharmacology and signal transduction. These courses emphasize basic concepts while encouraging students to develop problem solving skills. The topic areas covered in the two BFCP courses will be revisited, expanded and reinforced in the subsequent organ systems course of the preclinical curriculum.

What class is like: BFCP makes up the bulk of our week’s courses (remember, we generally have lecture M-Th from 8AM-5PM with a 1-2 hour lunch break and F from 8AM-11AM). Each week we find a new set of lectures from the various subjects — what I like to tell applicants is that we could have a week of Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Microbiology and Pathology then be lectured on different subjects the following week. What makes this work really well is the fact that there is generally a centralized theme for each block of courses — this week we are focusing on blood and drug metabolism, so we started off with Histology of RBCs and WBCs, delved into the Biochemistry of heme and CYPs, discovered the intricate balance between hemostasis and thrombosis in Pathology and have been discussing the importance of Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics and Pharmacogenomics in Pharmacology. The lectures all tie together in some way, which makes the course flow really well.

How the course is assessed: The course is assessed on an H/P/F grading system where Honors is at 90% and Pass is at 70%. There are 2 examinations for each BFCP1 and BFCP2 so it translates into 4 BFCP1 exams over the course of the semester. We are required to pass each examination (a failing grade on any exam must be remediated). Furthermore, TBLs are incorporated into this course and contribute points to our final grade. Finally, we also have an Anatomy lab practical at the end of BFCP1 and BFCP2.

Thoughts on the course: The innovative curriculum is one of the biggest reasons I was drawn to OUWB and this course really defines what integrated means. By having a bit of each subject at a time, I can easily draw parallels between each of them (instead of learning them separately in blocks and forcing myself to remember what exactly in Biochemistry from my first week applies to Pharmacology in my second year). Now, this curriculum is not for the faint of heart — I personally like that our lectures change from week to week and that we have a variety of professors to learn from, but some might find this frustrating.

Medical Humanities and Clinical Bioethics (MH)
The description provided: This course introduces students to the thoughtful practice of medicine and care of patients and their families in a compassionate, ethical and professional manner. The course examines the social, ethical and legal issues that accompany physicians’ interactions with patients and contribute to their effectiveness as healers and professionals.

What class is like: This course started off with 4 interviewing sessions where we each did role playing as a physician, patient and observer. Each session was recorded and had a lecture component. After that section was complete, lecture has been 1.5 hours/week and features guest speakers and ethical cases for discussion.

How the course is assessed: The course is assessed on an H/P/F grading system where Honors is at 94% and Pass is at 70%. Our 4 interviewing sessions, attendance and 3 reflection papers are the components of our final grade.

Thoughts on the course: I was a bit confused by the course at the start of the semester since I wasn’t sure about how we were being graded or what the expectation was during our interview sessions [honestly, I didn’t spend too much time worrying about MH because the transition into BFCP was by far the most challenging]. Now that I’ve gotten into the swing of things, I can say that I do really enjoy most of the cases we discuss because there are a lot of ethical topics surrounding healthcare that we as physicians-in-training need to be aware of. Furthermore, it allows each of us to develop our rationale for resolving ethical dilemmas.

Note: For some reason the “Clinical Bioethics” part was lost when we shortened the course name to “MH.”

Promotion and Maintenance of Health (PMH)
The description provided: This course focuses on disease prevention, health promotion and population health, as well as on the integration of each in the practice of medicine. The content will provide the basic framework for understanding disease mechanisms from the perspective of preventing illness and remaining healthy.

What class is like: We started off the course with a lot of Epidemiology [I’m pretty sure we charged through the textbook in about a month, even though we only meet for 2 hours/week]. After an examination on that section, we moved into Infectious Disease [where we are now].

How the course is assessed: The course is assessed on an H/P/F grading system where Honors is at 90% and Pass is at 70%.  2 examinations, the first exam worth 40% of our grade and the second worth 60%. The first one was all multiple choice [on Epidemiology] and the second one is supposed to be a mix of multiple choice and short answer [on everything else we cover throughout the semester].

Thoughts on the course: I wish I had more time to devote to this course — I do feel like I’m learning a lot in it, but honestly, at the end of the day on Wednesday [usually we meet 3-5PM on Wednesdays], I am exhausted and already stressed about preparing for the following day’s lecture.

Art and Practice of Medicine (APM)
The description provided: This course introduces students to the concepts of patient-centered care, effective communication, interviewing, taking a social and medical history, physical examination, clinical reasoning and decision-making, diagnosis and the humane and ethical care of patients.

What class is like: APM is essentially our clinical skills course where we learn with Standardized Patients (SP) as well as real patients. We practice with our SPs in the Troy Clinical Skills center [a brand new, beautiful center mimicking a real clinic setup] and meet real patients in private practice clinics or in 1 of the 2 hospitals [Royal Oak or Troy].

How the course is assessed: The course is assessed on an H/P/F grading system where Honors is at 95% and Pass is awarded at an 85% on the OSCE and 75% on the written examination. We have OSCEs, reflections and a written examination over the course of the year.

Thoughts on the course: I really believe that this course is a huge motivating factor to keep pushing forward with studying an insane number of hours each day — not only do we feel like we’re practicing medicine, we actually get to interact with patients. Ever since we started seeing real patients ~2 weeks ago, I’ve found that my knowledge grows exponentially with each session. OUWB didn’t lie when they said students would get legitimate clinical exposure during your M1 year.

The description provided: This course provides structured content supporting student participation in the required four year Capstone project program. The course includes development of medical information literacy and skills in medical informatics including clinical informatics, imaging informatics and bioinformatics. The process of clinical trials including hypothesis development and protocol design will also be covered. Compliance training in the ethical use of human subjects and animals in basic science and clinical research and Institutional Review Board requirements will be discussed.

What class is like: We have been learning a lot about research methods and possible projects that we can pursue for our own Capstone projects. Interestingly, during an interaction with Dean Folberg, he mentioned that the USMLE may start implementing questions about proper medical literature searches [probably not by our exam, but in the future!]. Regardless, I felt overwhelmed by everything at the start of the semester and wondered why the curriculum would have 2 hours/week dedicated to this course in the first semester — it took me a while to realize how valuable and applicable much of what we’ve learned is, but now that I’m pretty well-versed in PubMed searches as well as MDConsult/Micromedex/UptoDate, I am confident in my ability to access accurate and reliable medical literature.

How the course is assessed: The course is assessed on an H/P/F grading system where Honors is at 90% and Pass is at 70%. We have numerous in-class and homework assignments [usually very straightforward and relatively simple] as well as 3 exams over the course of the year. The first exam asked questions about proper literature search technique, how to conduct a needs assessment, and other various topics discussed in lecture.

Thoughts on the course: As I mentioned above, I was a bit confused at first, but now appreciate how useful the course has been. Like with PMH, I find it hard to concentrate during the 3PM-5PM lecture, but now that my lecture stamina is increasing steadily, I find it easier and easier to stay engaged.

Today’s medical school fact of the day: Grapefruit juice inhibits intestinal CYP3A4-mediated metabolism, which is why many patients are advised against drinking grapefruit juice when on drugs that are metabolized through this enzyme. — Various Pharmacology/Biochemistry lectures

10 thoughts on “Day 93: Thoughts on the OUWB curriculum

  • November 16, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Thanks for your great post!
    A few follow-up questions:
    1. OUWB says they use a variety of teaching methods. I know about TBL from interview day (generally 1 3-hour session per week). What other teaching methods are used? What’s the breakdown between normal lectures and these other methods?
    2. What do you think of TBL? In talking with some of your classmates at interview day, the big knocks I heard were that the teams are assigned so you can’t avoid people you don’t like and that it seems a lot of the discussion time is taken up by people arguing in support of their incorrect answer despite being informed by the teacher that they are wrong

  • November 16, 2011 at 11:49 am

    @Anon: 1. The only other non-lecture methods that they employ are case studies and labs [but labs are standard everywhere]. Something they may be referring to is the fact that many professors use iClicker questions, or try to make their lectures as interactive as possible. I should have mentioned how the overwhelming majority of our professors *really* are dedicated to teaching and improving their teaching method — it’s refreshing to come from a huge research school where many professors are passionate about their research, but not the topic they are teaching students.

    2. In the real world, you don’t choose your teammates. So while there are times you’ll get really lucky and end up with awesome people, more times than not, you’ll find yourself working with someone you may not get along with. One of the big things OUWB stresses is teamwork, and with good reason; healthcare isn’t a one (wo)man team… it’s a team of medical assistants, nurses, nursing assistants, custodial staff, administrative staff, medical students, interns, residents, attendings and most importantly, patients. I find that the more that I work in groups, the more that I learn about myself and how to work most effectively with a diverse body of people and personalities. Plus… medical school teams are amazing because everyone really holds themselves accountable — so even if you don’t end up liking someone in your group, you’ll at least know that they would have done the reading [unlike most undergrad groups!].

    The latter part of your comment has been true for some TBLs… this being said, administration is well aware of this and has been cutting certain unnecessary discussions short. Yes, a couple of times the discussion has been quite extended, but usually with good reason. Furthermore, we’ve tested out all of these questions so the proper adjustments can be made so that future classes don’t have to delve into these sometimes tedious dialogues.

    [Sorry I rambled there… hope that this answers your questions and feel free to ask more!]

  • November 16, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    How does exam remediation work at OUWB? And is it possible that people have to stay back a year?

  • November 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Amanda, your blog is so helpful and interesting to read! Every afternoon I find myself looking to see if you have a new post. You may just be the most well written former engineer I have ever talked to 🙂
    Keep up your great work with the blog and with school-OUWB chose you for a reason; compassion and dedication to medicine are evident in your writing. Best of luck with upcoming exams and enjoy your well-deserved Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks!

  • November 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    what are the averages/high/low like on the tests?

  • November 17, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    @Anon1: As of right now, remediation occurs right before the new semester begins — this being said… there has been word that things might be changing up with regards to the policy. I’ll keep you guys updated, especially since I will need to remediate my BFCP1 final.

    @Danielle: Thank you *so* much for that comment! I really appreciated it. Best of luck to you on your application cycle and decision-making and happy holidays!

    @Anon2: Averages have ranged from mid-70s to 80%… usually closer to the 80% side. We don’t get too many more details outside of that… regardless, with the H/P/F and straight scale, we don’t compete with one another at all — we really are one big family that wants to see everyone succeed.

  • January 4, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    Amanda, is attendance mandatory at lectures or only when TBL activites occur? Do students watch lectures online to study or does most learning occur in lecture? Thanks!


  • January 4, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    @J: [From the FAQs page] Attendance is only mandatory when we have an assessment, lab, group activity, or a guest speaker. For some classes such as Capstone or Medical Humanities, there is a sign-in for attendance because those classes are based around guest lecturers and group discussion. All lectures are recorded [with the exception of Patient Panels] unless the recording equipment fails.

    As for what students prefer — I’d say that more people opt to watch lectures online when we get closer to exams, but otherwise, most of us do attend live lecture. Since our “required” attendance lectures are usually on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, most of the time people are already on-campus so they just go to the other classes as well.

    I personally attend all lectures [both because I want to, and because I am in charge of ensuring they get recorded], but I sometimes re-watch or re-listen to them when I’m at the gym or driving. Also, if I thought I topic doesn’t make sense when reviewing slides, I often re-watch that portion of the lecture to remind myself why that particular slide was included.

  • February 5, 2012 at 12:20 am

    Amanda, thank you the response. I ask about the attendance policy as I know I learn best by reading and highlighting material at my own pace. Are the required attendance classes on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday a majority of the day or just a small portion? I am afraid of being stuck in lecture a majority of the time when I could be studying on my time/ schedule by watching recorded lectures on 2x and then studying with the left over time

    I also am attracted to group style learning mixed in with lecture style curriculum but am concerned about the frequency of group sessions. I think its very beneficial to have group learning activities and that they are kinda fun! (I come from a small liberal arts school so interaction with classmates was not uncommon in the classroom). I know above you mentioned you learning style fits attending lecture but do you feel stuck attending lectures/ group sessions all day or are the mandatory attendance events a small percentage of the week?

    Also, how has your experience at Beaumont been so far? I was blown away by it on interview day so I assume it has been stinkin’ awesome!

  • February 5, 2012 at 12:31 am

    @J: you raise a number of points that I think would be best addressed in a phone conversation. I promise I have no reason to reveal your identity and I’m not affiliated with the adcom. So if you’d like to chat, please feel free to email me at

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