How Is XUSOM Different From Other Medical Programs?

At XUSOM, we strive to provide the most up-to-date medical curriculum in varied teaching environments from traditional lecture to one-on-one sessions. Our small class size, excellent faculty to student ratio and willingness to innovate make the educational experience at XUSOM superior. We provide the Basic Science curriculum in an integrated, system-based approach which has been shown repeatedly to be superior to the more traditional course-based approach. We provide early experiences to both the hospital and medical office settings, to stimulate a student’s interest in connecting basic science knowledge with clinical care. The Clinical Science curriculum is presented in ACGME hospitals and outpatient settings where the faculty and preceptors value education, and have vast experience in both medical student and resident education.

An Accredited School-   Accreditation is a voluntary process of internal and external evaluation entered into by an educational institution. It is a continuous review of policy, procedure, organization and outcomes. In other words, a school volunteers to evaluate itself, discover what works and both identify and improve on what does not. It is a continuous, ongoing process of self-study and quality assurance. Only about one half of the schools in the Caribbean are accredited in any form. XUSOM is presently provisionally accredited by the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for Education in Medicine and other Health Professions (CAAM-HP, 2013-2016) and conditionally accredited by the Accreditation Commission on Colleges of Medicine (ACCM, 2015-2018). Provisional accreditation is the first step for any school; we are actively continuing our efforts to full accreditation.

What is a traditional discipline based program? As you may have found, other programs use terminology like Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology, Microbiology and Immunology, Pathology, Embryology. Many Caribbean schools still adhere to this methodology. Furthermore, you may find each of those curriculums will teach the science of medicine in two parts with a USMLE review at the end of either a 5th or 6th semester. The first part will generally focus on the normal structure and function of human body and the second part generally will focus on the abnormal structure and function of human body. And then each will require a USMLE review and transitional semester. This approach was adopted by US medical schools over a century ago; it has been supplanted by a system-based, integrated approach in most US medical schools, as well as XUSOM.

Why is there an increased emphasis on the social and behavioral sciences in the curriculum? In the mid-1970s it was noted in North America and Europe that the traditional curriculum based on biomedical sciences did not always create compassionate and empathetic doctors. This lead to an increased emphasis on the social sciences. At XUSOM a medical humanities module is offered to all first semester students. Medical ethics, cultural diversity, and movie screening and activities are other widely appreciated features of the curriculum.

What is a system based program? The MD curriculum at XUSOM is fully integrated. At XUSOM, our program teaches the student in steps of – Fundamental Concepts, Patient-Doctor and Society, Healthcare Quality Improvement and by the Musculoskeletal, Nutrition and metabolism, Infection and Immunity, Nervous, Gastrointestinal, Respiratory, Cardiovascular, Hematopoietic, Renal and Metabolic, Endocrine and Reproductive Systems. This methodology begins the development of clinical acumen of students earlier while helping the students synthesize and retain the material. All System courses integrate the biochemistry, genetics, physiology, anatomy and pathology of the system, allowing the student a much better integrated understanding of the organ system under consideration.

Teaching methodologies- At XUSOM we vary the basic science teaching methodologies (pedagogy) from more traditional lectures to focused small group and one-on-one experiences. Even traditional lectures are for less than 50 students, allowing for interaction and discussion. Small group discussion of clinical cases or individual diseases help the student become comfortable in presentation and oral questions and answer sessions similar to clinical “rounds”. The process strives to enhance teamwork, professionalism, critical thinking, expands knowledge and reasoning (deductive and inductive).   A second focus is on self-directed, lifelong learning. Problem Based Learning sessions are held once a week and strengthen the self-directed learning skills of students. Physicians must be dedicated to improving their knowledge base every day. Students are encouraged to develop learning plans for their own recognized gaps in knowledge. Once completed, the XUSOM graduate is well prepared to enter residency, and the practice of medicine.

What is quality improvement and patient safety? Modern healthcare systems are increasingly complex and the risk for inadvertent harm is high. This has led to an increased emphasis on healthcare quality improvement and patient safety. At XUSOM the online module designed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) is offered to students. Students are also introduced to critical appraisal of scientific literature and evidence-based medicine. A separate nutrition is offered to students recognizing the importance of proper nutrition in maintaining health and preventing disease. The online nutrition in medicine module developed by the University of North Carolina is also offered to students.

What is early clinical exposure? Early clinical exposure is exposure of students to a clinical environment right from the beginning of the course. This exposure helps students better understand the clinical relevance of the basic sciences and leads to increased motivation and attendance. At XUSOM students visit the clinics of local general practitioners and participate in health fairs. During the fourth semester they spend sixteen hours at the Horacio Oduber hospital on the island. They also benefit from the strong standardized patient program at the institution.

Why 6 semesters of basic sciences at XUSOM? The decompression of the program in the second year allows all of our students more time to digest the intricate material. Instead of hastening students through an abbreviated 5 semesters, we have slowed the education process slightly. This allows for more contact with our dedicated faculty, more access to the equipment and materials at the main campus and allows for more preparation on the island. It also allows for relief of the immense pressure and stress students may feel as the USMLE Step 1 exam approaches. We expect to see a significant decrease in attrition as well as a further increase in our USMLE Step 1 pass rates.

What are the admissions standards? XUSOM believes in a more holistic analysis of candidates. The MCAT is merely one indicator of many to predict future performance. XUSOM evaluates the student’s entire body of work. Your G.P.A., your letters of recommendation, your highest degree earned, previous exposure to the medical field, your volunteer community work, your commitment to the field of medicine and your interview all play a role in the admissions process.

How is Aruba? The island of Aruba is quite Americanized. Aruba accepts U.S. currency. It is a quiet and safe place for study. Students are even allowed access to the Aruban healthcare system.

What learning materials are available to students? Teaching and learning have been further expanded by the addition of secure online and cloud based learning materials. Students are also able to access plastinated cadavers.