Beginning medical school, navigating the choices of career paths over the (at minimum) four-year journey, and eventually transitioning into residency training presents opportunities and potential challenges seen in few other professions. At UCSF, the Student Experience Team supports students during these transitions and helps them acquire the tools to succeed in medical school and beyond.
“I describe our team as a boutique concierge service that helps students transition at all stages of their career,” says Lee Jones, MD, Associate Dean for Students. “In medical school, students’ experience includes not only the content of what they learn, but also their development professionally and personally.”
The Student Experience Team—comprised of 15 staff—collaborates to maximize how students thrive, provides skills and resources in cases where extra support is needed, and helps students choose the best way to serve UCSF’s patients and our communities as a physician.
“We’ve positioned specialized staff to support students at each stage of their careers and at milestones of the Bridges Curriculum,” says DoQuyen Tran-Taylor, Director of Medical Student Experience. This includes helping students prepare for and engage in Foundations 1, Foundations 2, and Career Launch components of the curriculum.
The impact of the Student Experience Team is ubiquitous: during orientation week, in scheduling courses and clerkships, preparing for exams, planning for and selecting a specialty, completing residency applications, and matching. The team’s collective expertise spans all aspects of student wellbeing, career advising, community engagement, academic and personal support, and assists students from diverse backgrounds and communities.
“The crux of our mission is to position students in the best way possible to help them achieve their medical school goals, achieve work-life balance, and be ideally situated to succeed as future physicians,” says Dr. Jones.
After only one year as an associate dean, his leadership resulted in implementation of focus groups to gather students’ feedback on current and desired resources; a fully staffed Student Experience Team of specialized experts; and solidified partnerships with other medical education teams such as the Assessment, Curriculum and Evaluation group (helping structure Bridges to address workload and curricular challenges), and with the admissions team to facilitate student scholarships.
Dr. Jones’ leadership also resulted in the implementation of focus groups to gather students’ feedback on current and desired resources, and to guide the design and implementation of student experience improvements. He has formed and continues to meet with a student group from each of the four classes, student government, affinity and interest group leadership, distant clinical site students, and diversity leadership students. Topics of discussion have ranged from overarching approaches to student support to determining specific student program needs in wellbeing, career advising, academic support, inclusion, and community outreach. Faculty and staff positions to lead these initiatives are currently being finalized with continuing student input.
“The School of Medicine devotes a high standard of care and attention to the overall student experience,” says third-year student Joseph Knox who participated in the focus groups. “With the addition of Dean Jones and his newly founded student groups, this tradition has continued to thrive more than ever. These focus groups have allowed the perspective of students from all classes to be heard on a variety of issues and dealt with accordingly. I am extremely grateful to have a Dean of Students that is willing to reach out directly to students for first-hand perspectives and insight. Dr. Jones and his team’s active involvement in the student body not only strengthens the student experience, but also strengthens the connection between the students and faculty.”
This year saw an increased focus on the learning environment, wellness programming, career advising, and support of students from groups underrepresented in medicine, as well as roll-out of the Weekly Student Digest—an e-newsletter distributed to all UCSF medical students with need-to-know, school-wide and course-specific information for all classes. The digest also includes details on confidential reporting, and periodic messaging from the deans on topics such as diversity and inclusion, career advising, and grading in the clinical environment.
Dr. Jones and his team also partner across campus, collaborating with Deans Diversity Leaders, UCSF Student Services, Disability Services, Office of the Registrar, and central services supporting students financially and personally.
“Our partnerships enhance the learning environment for students and help us support their growth throughout their journey here,” says Dr. Jones. “I really value the collaborative approach we all—SET, ACE, students, and senior leadership—take here at UCSF to continually improve how we address our missions of education, clinical care, service, and research. And our students are really amazing people; we’re incredibly lucky to have each of them in our community!”