Sanford School of Medicine – Match Statistics

One thing that I learned sometime during my Pre-Med days was to look at match statistics of schools to determine how well they do at training their students.  I thought that was good advice.  Obviously, how well a school does training their students should correlate to a better match rate.  I mean it’s exactly like looking at how well certain colleges place their students into careers.

So, I took that to heart.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t exactly afforded a large choice between medical schools.  What I mean to say is, I didn’t get into a ton of medical schools.  But hey, that doesn’t matter now does it?

So, before I even started medical school, I took an interest in the matching statistics of the schools I was applying to.  And after I was accepted at the Sanford School of Medicine (SSOM), I really concentrated on their matching stats, and to be honest we do pretty well.

I have compiled the matching statistics from SSOM since the year 2000 in a spread sheet, and I have found some interesting trends.

Match Stats


Since the year 2000 (including the 2010 match) – we have graduated and matched 545 students from SSOM with 93 going into Family practice which is 17.1% .   Compared to the US match rate of 7.4% matching into Family Practice (and only a 3% behind the leader), I would say that SSOM is doing pretty well meeting it’s mission.  And out of all the students who graduated since 2000 almost 45% of them have entered a primary care specialty (which would include Family Practice, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, and Psychiatry).

Our medical school has also done a great job matching students into very competitive specialties as well. Dermatology has long been known as one of the most difficult specialties to match into.  Yet, three students from a class of 50, matched in both the 2007 and 2008 match.  Or to put it another way, 6% of our class those two consecutive years matched into a specialty in with only 1.8% of medical students are able to match (according to the 2009 match statistics).

While most of our students match in the midwest, some have matched into some of the most well known universities in the country including Baylor, Cleveland Clinic, Dartmouth, Emory, Massachusetts General, Mayo, UCSF, Rochester, Vanderbilt, Yale, and others.

So, if you’re a Pre-Med student, don’t worry if you don’t get into the Ivy league schools.  State schools, even little South Dakota, can help their students match into competitive specialties in well known programs.

——————
Top Ten SSOM Specialty Choices

  1. Family Practice
  2. Internal Medicine
  3. OB/GYN
  4. Anesthesia
  5. Pediatrics
  6. Psychiatry
  7. Emergency Medicine
  8. Radiology (Diagnostic)
  9. Pathology
  10. Orthopedic Surgery

Top Ten SSOM Match Locations

  1. South Dakota
  2. Minnesota
  3. Iowa
  4. Nebraska
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Kansas
  7. Michigan
  8. Missouri
  9. Texas
  10. Illinois 

Pre-Med :: Clinical Experience and Jobs – Part 3

Finally, I am finishing this three part series on pre-med jobs for clinical experience.  Check out Part 1 and Part 2.


In this part of the series I will be talking about more clinical jobs for pre-med clinical experience.


Dietary – This is an ok part-time job that can help get your foot in the door at almost any hospital.  Ideally, you’d like to work in a position that delivers food or food trays directly to the patient’s rooms.  This will not always be able to happen.  Some hospitals have dietary workers who bring the food directly to patients.  Others have the nursing staff come get the food carts from the dietary workers, and the nursing staff brings the food to the patients.  You may want to inquire about this when applying for the position.  This job surprisingly has quite a few benefits.  First, hospitals are ok with hiring high school students for these jobs.  This is great because if you have an early interest in medicine, you can get your foot in the door right away.  Next, this is a great connection job.  Everyone in the hospital eats (obviously).  So, if the food service department is set up right you may see everyone from doctors and nurses, to housekeeping and administration, to patients.  This is the big plus for the pre-med student. As the old saying goes, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  In addition, you’re always around the food.  I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a huge plus.  When I was hungry and working in the food service, there was always extra food around that was going to get thrown away even though no-one had touched it.  It seems like a small perk, but it’s probably one of my favorite jobs for that reason alone. Finally, the hours are good (4 or 8 hour shifts), patients love to see you, and there is virtually no training.  The drawbacks are obvious.  First, you will not get the patient exposure that the other jobs provide like EMT, phleb, CNA, volunteering, ect.  Also, you don’t get to see what anyone is doing.  By that I mean, you’re not going to get to see the doctors interact with nurses or patients, nurses with patients, patients with techs, or any real patient interactions.  To sum up, dietary workers are pretty much the bottom of the medical totem pole.  Finally, you work with food.  This is a perk, but at the same time a drawback.  It’s not the poop and vomit that CNAs work with, but it’s not the fun adrenaline rush either.


Pros: Patients like you, can make connections, start in high school, work around the food
Cons: Not much patient interaction, looked down on by medical staff, work with food




Research (Basic Science and Clinical) – I am only familiar with the basic science research, so this section will be based on that.  This is a great route to learn the science of medicine.  This route will take you away from the art of medicine and seeing patients, but it will help you explore a certain area of medicine.  This route will definitely help you with medical school admissions.  Medical schools love to see that you did some research to help further the field of medicine. Lots of medical schools pay stipends to students who want to do research.  Also, doing research will help you decide if medicine is right for you.  Maybe you’re destined for the PhD?  Or if you can’t make up your mind, maybe the MD/PhD route is in your future? This route is the most intellectually challenging and stimulating route for the pre-med student.  By doing research with a PhD or MD mentor, you are helping answer the big questions in science like: How does addiction change the brain?  Why do we sleep?  How can we cure breast cancer?  How can we cure any cancer?  How can we prevent another H1N1?  What can we do to help people with spinal injuries walk again?  How do we cure diabetes?  These are just some of the big questions being asked at my small medical school.  Imagine what kind of things scientists are studying.  But this route isn’t perfect.  It requires a very large time commitment if you want to get anything published.  Research takes lots of time to answer very small precise questions.  If it was quick, we’d have the cure to cancer and AIDS by now.  The process is slow.  Also, not much patient interaction.  In fact, I had no interaction with patients at all during my research, so it may seem far away from that ‘save-a-life’ world of a doctor.  


Pros: Intellectually challenging, med school admissions, PhD route?
Cons: Time commitment, no patient interactions 




Other things you can do include: volunteering, medical receptionist, transcriptionist, chart filer, and patient transporter.  These are all fine, and get you involved with patients.  I personally think that any EMT, CNA, or phlebotomy experience will trump these but I have not done any volunteering at the hospital, receptionist, transcriptionist, filing, or transporter work.  I think these would be great first steps similar to dietary.  This will allow you to get your feet wet, learn the lingo, and see how the healthcare field works.


I hope you enjoyed my little series.  If you have any questions for me feel free to email.

Pre-Med :: Clinical Experience and Jobs – Part 2

After reading part one of this series, Peter writes:

If you want to learn what it is like to work as a doctor, from patient interactions and clinical decision-making to hours worked and lifestyle, why would shadowing doctors be the worst for that? I would argue that it is by far the best way to appreciate the field of medicine.



Peter you’re completely right.  If you want to see exactly what a specialty does day to day, doctor shadowing is a good way to do it.  But to appreciate the field of medicine?  I’d have to disagree with you there.


The patient interaction and clinical decision-making that you will see as a Pre-Med student (this story changes if you’re a medical student), is hardly anything to experience as a student shadow.  When a pre-med student shadows a physician, are they interacting with the patient or just passively observing interaction?  When a pre-med student shadows a physician, are they a part of the clinical decision-making process or just passively observing a clinical decision being made?  Sure, following a doctor will give you an idea on the type of work, hours worked, and lifestyle of that specialty, but it hardly allows a student to appreciate the field and its complexities.  I think Hoover over at Med School Hell would completely agree with me on these points.  


In fact, any of the jobs I talked about in part one of this series would be much better for the Pre-Med student.  These jobs allow students to take part in medical decision making and treatment as well as actually interact with patients.  That’s what makes them better for appreciating the field of medicine.  Does a training chef just follow around a chef all day?  Does a training electrician just follow a certified electrician?  Does a new pilot just watch a captain of an airline to learn how to fly?  No, new chefs cook uncomplicated dishes, training electricians work on smaller projects, and new pilots fly smaller planes they just don’t watch then fly the commercial sized ones.  My point here is watching is not doing.  Doing something in the healthcare field is going to make you appreciate it much more than just watching.  That’s why I disagree. Shadowing a physician is not “by far the best way to appreciate the field of medicine.”  

Pre-Med :: Clinical Experience and Jobs – Part 1

Every Pre-Med student knows if they want to get into medical school, they should have some type of clinical experience on that nice padded resume of theirs.  But what type of clinic experience should one pursue?  So many choices are available – shadow doctors, EMT, nursing assistant, dietary, phlebotomy, volunteering, medical research, or others I’m probably forgetting or never even knew about.  


So what should you do? There’s a couple questions you should ask yourself.  What sounds interesting?  What type of person are you?  What are you looking for in a clinical experience?  Do you have any friends or family in the healthcare field?  Think about these questions as you continue on with this post.  


EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) – These are the people who work in the fire departments or ambulances and come to the rescue when you dial 911.  If you are considering becoming an EMT, first think about what kind of area you live in.  Are you in an urban area or out in the middle of nowhere?  In the city, being an EMT will be more like a part-time or full-time job.  Ambulance companies and fire stations are numerous and since I don’t have any knowledge in that area, you should probably ask someone some questions about whether or not it’s feasible to become an EMT in that area.  If you live in the rural country like me, then we’re always looking for EMTs.  Volunteer fire departments can never have too many EMTs hanging around.  This field is a great area to gain some clinical experience.  First off, it’s has a lot of autonomy.  When you’re the EMT out in the field and a person is hurt, you are the one calling the shots.  Should we stay and put in an IV and push drugs or should we load and go?  Also, you get to work with patients from all walks of life.  The young kid who fell and broke his leg riding his bike, the drunk 20-year-old in the bar fight, the middle age woman with chest pain, and the old lady who just isn’t feeling right, may all be calling you for that special care you provide.  What you see out in the field is raw and sometimes dangerous.  It’s an adrenaline rush and this job is not for the faint hearted, but it will definitely help you decide quick, do you like medicine? But this job is far from perfect.  Being an EMT requires taking at least a basic level class (about one semester long – if you take it full-time).  So if you want or need to get started right away, this is not the best route.  Also, EMTs are up all hours of the day.  In the bigger cities I imagine you work shifts, but on a volunteer service you could be on call for a few days or even a week at a time.  When you have something planned the next morning and a combative puking drunk fell at hit his head at 2am, it’s not fun but you have to get up and go.  


Pros: Great patient interaction, autonomy, work with all types of patients
Cons: Bad hours, class time required, not for the faint hearted






CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) – Ever been in the hospital visiting a patient or been a patient yourself?  You should be familiar with the nursing aide then.  If you hit that call light, the person you see will most likely be the nursing aide.  Being a nursing aide is great.  First off, there is no 120 hour national standardized curriculum.  Usually, just a couple hour class or workshop can get you setup to become a nursing aide.  Most nursing homes will hire people with no previous clinical experience and train them.  Nursing aides help patients with the activities of daily living.  That’s a fancy way of saying that they do things for sick people.  Kind of like, if you stay home with a sick family member and help them out with their day.  That’s what being a nursing aide is like times 100.  The great thing about this job is the interaction with patients.  This is probably the best pre-med job to work for getting to know patients.  Nursing aides are the people who probably spend the most time with patients (and RNs).  There is plenty of time to learn people’s life stories, learn about their families, hobbies, worries, and everything else.  If you’re looking for relationships with patients (you know the kind of relationships I mean), then look no further than the nursing aide.  But being a nursing aide isn’t all rainbows and roses.  While they may have regular hours, nursing aides are the person that will be cleaning the vomit and the stool.  Also, as a nursing aide, you probably only work in a select area of the hospital or nursing home.  So, you’ll be seeing the same types of patients every day (unless you’re an aide in the ER or a float aide).  There is some autonomy with this job but it’s depends on where you work, and how nice your nurses are.  On the flip side, you do work a lot closer with different medical workers (RNs, Techs, even Docs).  


Pros: Best job for patient relationships, not much training required, work closely with other medical professionals
Cons: Cleaning puke and poop, pretty much the bottom of the totem pole, not much variety in patients




Phlebotomist (Lab Tech) – This is the special person in the hospital who is in charge of gathering blood samples.  No, not just going around and picking them up, but actually sticking needles in people to get their blood.  It’s not as bad as it sounds (unless you’re scared of needles).  This is a great job for the pre-med student.  First it introduces you to the types of labs doctors order.  Second, phlebotomists travel all around the hospital, so they see a variety of patients.  Some hospitals will train people with no previous experience (depending on how the phlebotomist job market is in your area).  If you are lucky enough to get trained by a hospital, in my case it only required one week of safety training on the computer and 2-3 weeks of hands on blood draw training.  This job is perfect for those who like a little technical element required out of their job.  But as you’ve seen so far, every job has it’s downside.  Phleb
otomists probably work the worst hours for any tech or aide in the hospital.  Shifts in my local hospitals started at 4am and went to noon.  The evening shifts go from noon to 8.  This really messes up your day.  Working a half day ahead or behind everyone else makes it extremely difficult to make any plans.  Also, patients hate you.  The love of the patient goes to the food service, the nursing aide, the RN, even the doctor.  But never the phlebotomist.  Imagine walking into someone’s room at 4am (after they probably had the worst sleep of their lives – hospitals are noisy), and saying “Good morning, I’m from the lab and need to get a blood sample. I’m going to flip on this bright light ok?”  How many patients do you think want to strangle you at the moment?  



Pros: Technically satisfying, variety of patients
Cons: Messed up hours, hated by patients


Shadowing Doctors – This is probably the worst choice for the pre-med student for clinical experience.  Now shadowing a doctor you know (or a friend knows), or a specialty that you have some interest in, a couple times is a good thing.  But if this is a majority of your clinical experience, I personally think that it’s not a good choice.  First off, you may see what the doctor does but you don’t have any reference on how or why they are doing it (unless you were previously another medical professional – RN, PT, etc).  Second, patients and staff act different around doctors (in most wards).  You will not get the full raw patient experience that you will be experiencing as a medical student, intern, or resident.  You will not have any autonomy (won’t learn to make your own choices about patient treatment), no relationship with the patients (you’re just a shadow after all), no responsibility, and it’s not really that fun just following around someone all day. To sum up, I recommend pre-med students shadow doctors but not as the primary means of clinical experience.  


Pros: Learn what a doctor does
Cons: No patient relationships, no autonomy, no responsibility, not a real clinical experience 


To be continued… [Part 2] and [Part 3]

Some Objective Data

 Pre-meds are eagerly awaiting acceptance letters from medical schools and can’t wait to get started with the “busy” life of being a medical student.  But what is busy?  That’s such a subjective term.


Currently, we (MS2 students) are studying for our second exam in pharmacology.  Other than pharmacology we take 4 other classes currently.  One difficult one (Pathology), and two others that have lighter loads comparatively (Intro to Clinical Medicine 3 & Behavioral Science).  Our second exam in pharmacology is this coming Monday (Dec 7th).  Over this last 2.5 (that’s two and a half – not twenty five) weeks, we have learned/are learning this list of drugs:


Methacholine
Bethanechol
Carbachol
Cevimeline
Pilocarpine
Ambenonium
Demecarium
Edrophonium
Neostigmine
Physostigmine
Pyridostigmine
Tacrine
Donepezil
Rivastigmine
Galantamine
Atropine
Scopolamine
Cyclopentolate
Tolterodine
Dicyclomine
Oxybutynin
Tropicamide
Nicotine
Mecamylamine
Guanidine
Botulinum Toxin
Succinylcholine
Varenicline
Atracurium
Cisatracurium
Pancuronium
Rocuronium
Tubocurarine
Vecuronium
Norepinephrine
Epinephrine
Isoproterenol
Dopamine
Dobutamine
Albuterol
Formoterol
Metaproterenol
Pirbuterol
Salmeterol
Terbutaline
Clonidine
Guanabenz
Guanfacine
Alpha-methyl Dopa
Apraclonidine
Amphetamine
Dextroamphetmaine
Pseudoephedrine
Ephedrine
Cocaine
Tyramine
Phenoxybenzamine
Phentolamine
Prazosin
Terazosin
Doxazosin
Tamsulosin
Alfuzosin
Propranolol
Timolol
Nadolol
Metoprolol
Atenolol
Esmolol
Betaxolol
Pindolol
Acebutolol
Labetalol
Carvedilol
Histamine
Diphenhydramine
Chlorpheniramine
Meclizine
Fexofenadine
Loratadine
Desloratadine
Cetirizine
Levocetirizine
Azelastine
Phenylephrine
Naphazoline
Oxymetazoline
Pseudoephedrine
Beclomethasone
Budesonide
Flunisolide
Fluticasone
Mometasone
Triamcinolone
Theophylline
Ipratropium
Tiotropium
Levalbuterol
Omalizumab
Singulair
Advair Diskus
ProAir HFA
Flomax
Nasonex
Spiriva
Detrol LA
Chantix
Proventil HFA
Combivent
Flovent HFA
Nasacort AQ
Allegra-D 12 Hour
Toprol XL
Astelin
Xopenex HFA
Patanol
Pulmicort Respules
Alphagan P
Vesicare
Xopenex
Clarinex
Coreg CR
Ventolin HFA
Rhinocort Aqua
Xyzal
Veramyst
Asmanex Twisthaler
Uroxatral
Allegra-D 24 Hour
EpiPen
Zyrtec
Enablex
Symbicort
Qvar




And that’s a list of the 2nd exam drugs.  Remember this is a list of only the drugs we need to know, not the mechanisms, receptors, or enzymes involved that’ll also be on the exam.  Keep looking forward to medical school my pre-med friends!  Also, use this list and start memorizing right now, that’ll get you ahead.  

A Different Kind of Busy

Not too long ago I was down at a local bar relieving some stress.  The second year of medical school is “nothing to shake a stick at” as one professor would say.  So, I need to be with some friends and have a few drinks once in a while to help me get my head back in the game – so to speak.  


At the bar, I ran into some Pre-Med friends of mine.  Both of them were doing great, and wanted to know how I was doing and how medical school was going.  It was only a couple years ago I was in their shoes.  Wondering if I would get into medical school, and what medical school is really like.  Sure you read all of these stories that say it’s so busy, and it’s harder than undergrad.  But you constantly feel the need to see if you can get a clearer answer from a med student.  When I ran into medical students when I was a pre-med, and I wanted to be in their shoes.  To do what they were doing, to feel the stress they were feeling, to be learning what they were learning, and to be happy about it.  I could tell these guys had those feelings too.  

I told them it was busy.  The second year was beating me down, and sometimes it was a little hard to put my head back into the books.  After I got done with my “feel sorry for me, I’m so busy story” both looked at me a little disgusted and said, “we don’t feel sorry for you at all.”  

After two short years I had forgotten what it was like to be in their shoes.  Knowing what you want to do for the rest of your life, but still one HUGE hurdle away.  Not knowing if you’d be getting into medical school, or have to re-apply the next year, or find a new career – one you’re do not have the same passion for as medicine.  Dying to be in a medical student’s shoes, to be as busy as they are, and learning medicine instead of taking classes you could not care less about.  I was a little ashamed to be on my whiny busy soap box, when these guys clearly had bigger worries than I.  I had forgotten.

I told them they were completely right, and that was silly of me to be whining to them.  So we moved on and they asked, “How can med school be so ridiculously busy?  As seniors in undergrad we feel like we can juggle a billion things, we’re busier than anyone on campus, yet medical students always seem so run down from being busy. How can this be?”

It’s a different kind of busy.  Most medical students are Type-A people.  We get things done, we are efficient, and we can juggle a busy schedule.  That’s what helped get us here in the first place.  By the time you become a senior undergrad you’ve mastered the schedule juggling business.  I could juggle volunteering, class, homework, a part-time job, a girlfriend, hang out with a lot of friends, extra-curricular activities – more than two organizations at a time usually, research projects, and have time to still do some hobbies.  Yet, I am run down in medical school.  

The classes below me, and the classes that came before are probably full of students who did exactly those things in their final year of undergrad.  When we get to medical school it’s a different feeling all together.  When I juggled all of those things in undergrad, it made me feel energized and I was pumped that I could do so much things in one day.  I was a moving task-completing machine.  In medical school you do not get that same feeling.  And I compared it to this scenario for them: you know when you have a long finals week with a lot of exans?  When you start preparing for that final test and you feel like you cannot sit in one place any longer or look at a book any longer.  You start to feel trapped and you just can’t wait to be done with finals week so you can move on.  That’s how all of medical school feels – so far.  

We’re busy, but not in a good way.

What is medical school like?

To get a feel for what medical school is like, look no further than this pearl from a 2nd year medical student heard today during small group.


“I feel like for the next 40 years I’ll will be trying to understand everything I have memorized in the first two years of medical school.” 


Time to get your study on.  

Sanford School of Medicine Review [Part 2]

Please visit Part 1 of the series here.  


Finances

Please visit the Sanford School of Medicine MD Program site for a better breakdown.  This year tuition and fees came out to about $22,000 for South Dakota residents.  We are one of the most inexpensive medical schools in the nation.  Also, we have a dedicated Financial Aid Advisor for medical students, and she works with you to get you on a budget and find the money you need to go to school.  

Location

I have to admit, Vermillion isn’t the most stimulating place on the planet.  It is small, cold, and there is not a lot to do.  But there are some perks that go with living in any small town.  No problems parking, no traffic, cost of living is low, and you always know someone (or know someone that knows someone – only one or two degrees of separation) that is connected to anything in town.  

Reputation

While the reputation is low among pre-meds, I believe/hear that the Sanford School of Medicine is actually very popular among high-profile residency programs.  The administration and upper class-men have told us time and time again that the clinical training at this school is second-to-none.  Medical students work directly with attendings and we gain a lot of experience!  Residency programs look for our students because they know we have that mid-western work ethic and we have a lot of clinic experience.  It has been said that our fourth years are allowed to do a lot more as a student here then they are allowed to as an intern in many residency programs.  The class of 2008 had 3/50 students match into a dermatology residency.  Dermatology is the most competitive residency in the nation and 6% of last year’s class matched into it.  To give you an idea, if only US seniors (approximately 15,000) matched into dermatology (approximately 400 spots) then on average 2.5% of medical students nation-wide match into it.  So, our class of 2008 over doubled that.  That’s pretty impressive.  

Can I Get Into Medical School?

On December 11th 2008, Dr. Holm came out with a show titled, “Can My Child Get Into Medical School?”  This show does an amazing job explaining what medical school is like at the Sanford School of Medicine.  

But the real question for the interested pre-med is, “Can I get in?”  Dean of Medical Student Affairs, Dr. Paul Bunger speaks on the show and really highlights the competitiveness of the application and admissions process.  He states:
45% applicants get into a medical school nationwide
34% applicants who apply get into USD
These stats really surprise me.  As a pre-medical student you have less than a 50:50 shot of getting into medical school and if you apply to USD you have about a 1:3 chance of getting accepted.  Dean Bunger, also has a couple tips on what the committee at Sanford SOM is looking for in their applicants.  

Ok so how do you get in?  Here’s a couple tips:
  • Ace that MCAT – but seriously though you want to shoot for at least a 30 (Note: Dean Perry in the video says that a 36 is the highest score one can get on the MCAT, but actually its a 45). But I am not saying you can’t get in with a 27 or even a little lower but you chances definitely go down.  
  • Do well in undergrad – may seem obvious, because it is.  Shoot for the 4.0 but a 3.5 or higher should get you in.  
  • Be well rounded – get in and be involved with things that are not medically related.
  • Volunteer/Job Shadow with something healthcare related – admissions people need to know that you actually know what the healthcare field is like.  I mean how do you know you want to be a doctor and not a nurse or PA?  I know too many people who applied to medical school with no medical or healthcare work in their background and I believe that is why they didn’t get in.  Don’t get me wrong it’s possible to get into medical school without it, but I think it’s really important. 
  • Get involved with a research project – medical doctors are still doctors and are expected to contribute to the future of the medical field.  Who knows you might think that research is fun and pursue a Physician Scientist program.  This is not necessarily required.  
  • Lastly, I highly recommend searching around the StudentDoctorNetwork forums to learn more about the process.  

Sanford SOM Curriculum

Here’s a start to a little personal review series on the Sanford SOM, maybe the Pre-Med hopefuls out there can learn more about what it’s like to attend medical school here.


Structure:

First two years of medical school are the pre-clinical years.  The first year classes include:
  • Biochemistry
  • Gross Anatomy
  • Embryology
  • Histology/Physiology (combined course)
  • Neurosciences
  • Intro to Clinical Medicine
The instruction here is traditional, and all in Vermillion.  They do work in some cased-based learning and bring in a lot of different people (patients and healthcare workers) from the field to talk about clinical correlations as it relates to what we are currently learning in class.  

A normal day starts at 9 am.  We sit in lecture until about 11:30 and are dismissed for lunch.  Class resumes at 1pm and generally goes to 3:30.  Lectures are in a nice lecture hall, with most classes being taught to medical students only.  Some courses are with physician assistants, physical therapy, and occupational therapy students.  

As first years, we are exposed to clinic early and have structured preceptorships with physicians in Sioux Falls, Vermillion, and Yankton as a part of our Intro to Clinical Medicine class.

Second year classes include:
  • Microbiology
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Behavioral Science
  • Radiology
  • Intro to Clinical Medicine
  • Rural Primary Care Preceptorship
Classes during the second year are once a week in Sioux Falls, and the rest in Vermillion.  Classes are taught by a mix of MDs and PhDs.  At the end of the second year we are sent out to do a month long rural primary care preceptorship.  This is a one-on-one preceptorship with a PCP somewhere in rural South Dakota.  Preceptorships are all throughout the state.  

Third and fourth years are the clinical years.  Third year is highly dependent on the clinical site.  Third years either end up at the Sioux Falls campus, Rapid City campus, or the Yankton campus.  If a student gets placed at either Sioux Falls or Rapid City, then the curriculum follows the traditional format, monthly rotations through different specialties.  If a student gets placed at Yankton campus, students rotate through a different specialty daily.  Students have a lot more freedom to scrub into surgeries or follow patients that they are interested in across different specialties.  Yankton students just have to meet minimum requirements in each specialty, such as “attend/assist with at least 20 vaginal births” for OB/GYN rotation.  

My Opinion:

I think the curriculum here is wonderful.  The professors have a vested interest in you, and the secretaries know you by name.  The medical school on campus is built around the first and second year medical students, because the third and fourth years are not at the Vermillion campus.  

The classes do a great job preparing students for the USMLE Step-1 and setup all the classes to try to prepare us for it.  In fact, the class of 2012’s results for the NBME Biochemistry Shelf Examination class average was in the 80th percentile nation-wide.  


The faculty also listen closely to our input as students.  Student groups are put together to give feedback about every class, and classes are changed regularly based on feedback from previous years.  

Lastly, and something I tend to take for granted, is the fact that the class is very cooperative. Classmates help each other out on everything, and resources are easily shared among us.  The faculty does a great job setting this up by not grading classes on a curve, and never telling anyone what their class standing is, which makes the environment non-competitive.  

If you have the luxury of choosing which medical school you’d like to attend, I’d like to highly recommend the Sanford SOM.


[Read Part 2]