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In Vivo


"Student Success Network" in Second Decade as Safety Net

Grateful Students Thank Dean Linda Lewis Linda Lewis, M.D., clinical professor of neurology and dean of students, helped launch the Student Success Network in 1991.

Grateful Students Thank Dean Linda Lewis Linda Lewis, M.D., clinical professor of neurology and dean of students, helped launch the Student Success Network in 1991. Dr. Lewis recently left her post as dean of students after 26 years, although she will continue to see patients. "P&S has been a unique and wonderful place to work," she says. "The strengths of this place come from the mix of outstanding students and faculty who are passionate about medical education." Here, Dr. Lewis (second from right) receives a certificate during the Dean's Day program in May recognizing and thanking her for her contribution to student life, particularly through her role in the SSN. The certificate was signed by all the students who participated in the SSN this year. From left, Ram Gowda'08, who will be next year's SSN student coordinator; Mary Piscitello'07, the outgoing student coordinator; and Mindy Fullilove, M.D., (right), professor of clinical psychiatry who founded the SSN in 1991, present the certificate to Dr. Lewis.

When first-year students arrive at P&S, some may be surprised at the sheer volume of work and the speed with which they must acquire information. "They are expected to 'hit the ground running,''' says Mindy Fullilove, M.D., professor of clinical psychiatry, "but they are not left to flounder." Dr. Fullilove is the founder and faculty advisor of the Student Success Network, (SSN), a program at P&S that helps keep students from stumbling as they race to keep up. A "stumble," such as failing an exam, can trigger an avalanche of negative events, Dr. Fullilove says, so it is critical that students get their footing early and pass their courses from the outset.

Dr. Fullilove created the model for P&S's program at the University of California at San Francisco in 1986, a program that is still going strong. Dr. Fullilove began P&S's program in 1991.

The SSN is a student-run program in which second-year students help first-years meet academic demands. "We use workshop-based and lecture-style reviews as well as a one-on-one tutoring program," says Mary Piscitello'07, the current student coordinator. "In addition to helping new medical students build their knowledge base with critical facts and concepts, SSN helps first-years become more effective learners."

An evaluation performed after the SSN had been in place for 10 years at P&S showed that it had contributed to better outcomes on the first step of the medical licensing exam and lower numbers of students who failed their first year.

As the P&S curriculum evolves, so, too, is the SSN evolving to keep pace. Ms. Piscitello collaborated with Marc L. Dickstein, M.D., associate professor of clinical anesthesiology and director of the first-year course, Science Basic to the Practice of Medicine and Dentistry, to ensure that SSN review programs highlighted the most important points for first-years. Dr. Dickstein introduced more Web-based interactive learning supplements as well as a new textbook and more clinical correlation sessions. Next year, SSN will create a help desk where students can bring specific questions to a teaching session.

"SSN helped change the atmosphere of P&S from one of isolated and nervous learners to one where students are engaged with each other and with the materials in large learning communities," Dr. Fullilove says. "Most students say the program has helped them in one way or another, from offering practice practicals to providing clear guidance on ways to prepare for exams."