Learning Communities and Mentorships

Medical education at WMed is built on a strong foundation of close working relationships between students and faculty. With a target class size of 84 students and almost 600 faculty members, each student receives a great deal of personal attention. WMed has established learning communities to promote connections among students and scholar-advisors who deliver mentoring, advising, and career counseling. Students learn from each other through these associations and collaborations – similar to how physicians learn from their colleagues throughout their careers. Each Learning Community is named for a physician who had a lasting impact on the field of medicine:

Virginia Apgar, MD: “Do what’s right, and do it now.”

Dr. Virginia Apgar is best known as the developer of the Apgar score used to assess the condition of an infant upon delivery. The Apgar score has become recognized worldwide as a standardized method of evaluating an infant’s transition to life outside the womb. Dr. Apgar was also the first woman to be named a full professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and served as the director of the Division of Congenital Defects at the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, the predecessor to the March of Dimes.

Elizabeth Blackwell, MD: “It’s not easy to be a pioneer – but oh, it is fascinating! I would not trade one moment, even the worst moment, for all the riches in the world.”

Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell is known as the first woman to receive an MD degree in the United States. Dr. Blackwell spent her career pursuing the advancement of women in the medical field.  In 1857, she founded the New York Infirmary for Indigent Women and Children, an institution with trustees and attending physicians who were women, which is still open to this day. Dr. Blackwell was also the first woman entered in Britain’s General Medical Councils’ register.  

Harvey Cushing, MD: “A physician is obligated to consider more than a diseased organ, more than even the whole man – he must view the man in this world.”

Dr. Harvey Cushing is best known as the “father of modern neurosurgery” and his description of a case of systemic disease caused by a dysfunction of the pituitary gland. What he called the polyglanduar syndrome is known as Cushing’s Disease. Dr. Cushing was also a pioneer of techniques and surgical instruments for neurosurgery, including the use of X-rays in the diagnosis of brain tumors, Cushing forceps, the Bovie electrocautery device, and the first mechanism for continuously recording a patient’s pulse and respiration.

Charles Drew, MD: “Excellence of performance will transcend artificial barriers created by man.”

Dr. Charles Drew was the director of the “Blood for Britain” program during World War II, and was responsible for collecting blood from nearly 15,000 Americans to support the war effort. As a supporter of quality insurance, Dr. Drew established uniform procedures for the collection, testing, and handling of blood products that created the modern blood bank. In 1940, Dr. Drew was the first African American to earn a doctorate in Medical Science from Columbia University. He pioneered the use of mobile blood donation stations, or bloodmobiles, that are still in use today.

Students are assigned to a learning community in their first year, and remain in that community throughout their four years. During the first year, students meet with their scholar-advisor to develop personalized learning plans, discuss professionalism, and track academic and career planning progress.

In the first year, scholar-advisors:

  • Conduct Learning Community large group meetings
  • Meet individually with each student to formally review the student’s learning portfolio, individual goals, academic progress, career planning, and progress toward becoming a lifelong learner.
  • Review student reflections and provide feedback.
  • Help identify and meet self‑directed learning needs while developing accountability and skills for self-reflection.
  • Develop personalized learning plans, direct behavior modification, and provide career counseling.

Near the beginning of the second year, each student is matched with an individual mentor, a clinical faculty member generally in the specialty the student is considering pursuing. Individual mentors provide personal mentoring, opportunities for student reflection and feedback, personal support, and academic mentoring.

Learning communities also provide opportunities for student wellness, social activities, and camaraderie. Each year, the learning communities compete in the Learning Community Olympics, an Olympic-style competition with multiple challenges such as trivia, a scavenger hunt, games, and Iron Chef. In addition to bragging rights, the winning learning community receives the College Cup trophy to keep in their common area for the entire year. 

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