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Hi, I was browsing through the forums and I was having a tough time finding current UofA med students' perspectives on why UofA is a great program.

 

Could some students currently in the program shed some light on their thoughts and experiences and what makes UofA a better choice than some other programs, along with what its weaknesses are? I'm not from Alberta and have never visited so some general comments on Edmonton and the campus would be welcome as well!

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Though I'm not a student there, I have a strong interest in attending the school because of its initiative to advocate for rural and Aboriginal healthcare issues. I understand other universities do this as well, but it's what interests me most about UofA.

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The only relevant one clearly =D

 

- G

 

Not sure if you are joking but that is a make it or break it thing for me. McMaster only has a half service Tim Hortons 5 steps from its main lecture theater and that makes me sad... 

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Lol gunners who gunningly gun.

 

@bearpuppy

 

Congrats on the CWRU acceptance. If finances were no issue, which of U of A, U of C or CWRU do you prefer?

 

 

Thank you! It's a tough question... In a lot of ways coming back to Canada (I'm a postdoc in the states right now) would be awesome. I am interested in neurosurg tho, and right now it's not looking great in Canada job wise. That has a 'backwards' trickle-down effect, because neurosurg residencies are not equivalent b/w Canada and the US, and it's harder (and for other reasons, less typical) for a Canadian MD graduate to do a US residency. So what I'm saying is that where you do your MD degree tends to dictate where you end up practicing. And I am also not in a situation where finances are not an issue, so I don't get to be non-pragmatic about it.

 

I think U of A is a wonderful place, and CWRU is similarly great. It would ultimately be a difficult choice, and Calgary has it's benefits also. My guess is I would choose U of A given no financial concerns.

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Th

 

Pros:

Big new teaching buildings with simulators, stimualtors, and everything else you could want.

Resource rich, high end ORs, well equipped small group rooms, money for clubs.

"Academic school" lots of research, some big names in the game.

Almost every residency program offered except vascular, thoracic, and a couple other odd ones. Your odds of getting something exotic/difficult are better from your home school.

Excellent match stats. We had 4 people match optho last year and only a handful of unmatched with only 1 after the second round

Tim Horton's 5 steps in front of the main lecture theater

Main campus and secondary site on train route. Transit pass part of tuition.

Low(est?) English speaking tuition

Medium sized class ~165

Community placement for 20 or so students who want it for 3rd year clerkship if you dig rural med

Huge catchment = interesting cases. All of the territories, northern BC and Sask plus around 1.5 mil in Alberta

 

Cons:

"Academic school" obsessed with high scoring on the LMCC so we go overkill on tests, 2nd year OSCE, 2nd year cumulative, 2nd year anatomy cumulative, OSCE and written for most rotations, then 4th year OSCE, and a 4th year comp 3 weeks before LMCC (bonus is our comp is about 10x harder than the LMCC and they spend a ton of time getting us ready for it)

Young school. Average age is ~22, way more 2nd and 3rd year candidates, few masters or PhD peeps

Ridiculously high acceptance GPA = gunners who gunningly gun

Some overkill clerkship rotations. 8 weeks on CTU internal + 3 weeks geri + 3 weeks subspecialty = shoot me

Some stupid clerkship exams. Our psych exam is the American R3 exam or something like that. Terrible pass rate on our internal exam which blows when you have to rewrite wile on another rotation. Faculty doesn't care either because people have been complaining for years.

No one goes so far to enforce stupid rules. We screw people over if their elective requests aren't submitted in time, our absence policy is right out of prewar Germany, too many mandatory classes with sign in sheets.

Some of our residency programs are notoriously toxic and that makes its way down to the clerks when they are on those rotations.

It really is that cold and I've lived here most my life. In the winter you don't see the sun for months, the mountains are far away, we don't salt or even scrape roads, the summer is short and super hot, and if its a mosquito year watch out.

We have two catholic dumps for community hospitals, one of them is so bad it is flooded half the year and those child molesters who have no business getting in between patients and their providers find a way to jesusify everything

4 week mandatory rural rotation for family medicine in 3rd year, comes with free John Deere Tractor hat and deliverance soundtrack.

No anesthesia rotation in clerkship, in fact no anesthesia teaching. Only electives which are really hard to get.

 

Thanks for this. I'm curious as to why there are still super gunners. Isn't the pass/fail system supposed to help get rid of that? Any specific reason about the curriculum/school (other than that the students themselves) for why this is still a problem?

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I don't want to get into a whole thing here suffice it to say that the kind of people who can pull off a 4.0 while volunteering and engaging in multiple ECs have certain personality traits that sometimes don't correlate well to turning off the competition switch even when there is no incentive (not everyone of course but stereotypes exist for a reason).

 

The pass/fail system is great and definitely makes med school palatable but there is still tons of competition. At the U of A the community clerkship spots are highly coveted because of the hands on opportunities (and subsequently the quality of the reference letters that can be obtained) provided. There are only 20 spots and usually 40 serious applicants. There is competition for club leadership (CV building) and sometimes it can be down right cut-throat. The year I was applying for leadership of the emergency medicine club there were 20 people interested in 3 positions. Then there is just the ordinary everyday run of the mill social status and class politics that permeates everything. Medical school is like a repeat of high school with the same playground prison complex, the nonstop fashion show, and the relentless competition to determine who is the smartest person in the room. I personally hated high school the first time around, having to repeat it with a collection of some of the most socially inept and emotionally stunted helicopter parented children has been soul crushing. Can't recall which class it is, either the 2017s or 2018s, but they were pushing the professionalism button (anonymous electronic professionalism complaint)  on each other so much the faculty seriously considered scrapping the whole thing. They were ratting each other out for the most minor of offences. 4 years is a long time to have to play nice with the gestapo; seriously its like a never ending north korean birthday party.

 

U of C on the other hand has an average age of 26-27, has a pile of PhD and masters peeps, and is known as a laid back group with some variation from year to year.  

 

You would think that none of this matters and that you are only there for the education, and yes social involvement is on a sliding scale but it cannot be avoided altogether. You still end up spending 6-8 hours a day with your class preclerk and significantly more time with a select group during clerkship.

 

The pass/fail thing only matters for preclerk as well. As soon as clerkship starts its back to game on. Then the amount you engage (and are engaged) in competition comes down to what residency you want and how vocal you are about getting it. I know of many people who wanted competitive specialties who kept it quiet until the CaRMS tour because they didn't want the target on their back. Two people who got emerge last year surprised everyone because they kept it to themselves so well to avoid the emerge war. If you want general pathology and no one considers you much of a threat then this is all moot but if you are an optho or anesthesia gunner and look good on paper then you are standing in between someone and their dreams. Determined and driven people usually get want they want. Determined, driven, and amoral never fail.

 

This is all my own personal opinion, and comes after 5 years (sickness not failure, this is not a vendetta just run of the mill jadedness) of slogging through this so don't take it as fact. The U of A is a great school in many respects but so is the U of C and so is Queens and almost everywhere in Canada. If I could offer any advice on how I would chose it would be with an eye on what and where you want to do residency because then it matters. If you want to do urology then U of C is not for you. They have no program of their own and only match usually 1 person a year. If you want cardiac surgery then U of A is great because they have a program and it's notoriously brutal meaning that no want wants it, meaning you could slide into with home field advantage. If you just want family medicine then go to Queens, they have an excellent family program and a nice small cohesive class. Calgary's family medicine program on the other hand is probably the worst in the country or fighting hard for the honor. Just my two cents. GL

Edited by Fresh fry

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I don't want to get into a whole thing here suffice it to say that the kind of people who can pull off a 4.0 while volunteering and engaging in multiple ECs have certain personality traits that sometimes don't correlate well to turning off the competition switch even when there is no incentive (not everyone of course but stereotypes exist for a reason).

 

The pass/fail system is great and definitely makes med school palatable but there is still tons of competition. At the U of A the community clerkship spots are highly coveted because of the hands on opportunities (and subsequently the quality of the reference letters that can be obtained) provided. There are only 20 spots and usually 40 serious applicants. There is competition for club leadership (CV building) and sometimes it can be down right cut-throat. The year I was applying for leadership of the emergency medicine club there were 20 people interested in 3 positions. Then there is just the ordinary everyday run of the mill social status and class politics that permeates everything. Medical school is like a repeat of high school with the same playground prison complex, the nonstop fashion show, and the relentless competition to determine who is the smartest person in the room. I personally hated high school the first time around, having to repeat it with a collection of some of the most socially inept and emotionally stunted helicopter parented children has been soul crushing. Can't recall which class it is, either the 2017s or 2018s, but they were pushing the professionalism button (anonymous electronic professionalism complaint)  on each other so much the faculty seriously considered scrapping the whole thing. They were ratting each other out for the most minor of offences. 4 years is a long time to have to play nice with the gestapo; seriously its like a never ending north korean birthday party.

 

U of C on the other hand has an average age of 26-27, has a pile of PhD and masters peeps, and is known as a laid back group with some variation from year to year.  

 

You would think that none of this matters and that you are only there for the education, and yes social involvement is on a sliding scale but it cannot be avoided altogether. You still end up spending 6-8 hours a day with your class preclerk and significantly more time with a select group during clerkship.

 

The pass/fail thing only matters for preclerk as well. As soon as clerkship starts its back to game on. Then the amount you engage (and are engaged) in competition comes down to what residency you want and how vocal you are about getting it. I know of many people who wanted competitive specialties who kept it quiet until the CaRMS tour because they didn't want the target on their back. Two people who got emerge last year surprised everyone because they kept it to themselves so well to avoid the emerge war. If you want general pathology and no one considers you much of a threat then this is all moot but if you are an optho or anesthesia gunner and look good on paper then you are standing in between someone and their dreams. Determined and driven people usually get want they want. Determined, driven, and amoral never fail.

 

This is all my own personal opinion, and comes after 5 years (sickness not failure, this is not a vendetta just run of the mill jadedness) of slogging through this so don't take it as fact. The U of A is a great school in many respects but so is the U of C and so is Queens and almost everywhere in Canada. If I could offer any advice on how I would chose it would be with an eye on what and where you want to do residency because then it matters. If you want to do urology then U of C is not for you. They have no program of their own and only match usually 1 person a year. If you want cardiac surgery then U of A is great because they have a program and it's notoriously brutal meaning that no want wants it, meaning you could slide into with home field advantage. If you just want family medicine then go to Queens, they have an excellent family program and a nice small cohesive class. Calgary's family medicine program on the other hand is probably the worst in the country or fighting hard for the honor. Just my two cents. GL

 

This is such a thorough answer! Thank you so much for your input. I have no idea if I'll get in anywhere this year (never mind having a choice of where to go), but I appreciate all this feeback, if I do :)

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I don't want to get into a whole thing here suffice it to say that the kind of people who can pull off a 4.0 while volunteering and engaging in multiple ECs have certain personality traits that sometimes don't correlate well to turning off the competition switch even when there is no incentive (not everyone of course but stereotypes exist for a reason).

 

The pass/fail system is great and definitely makes med school palatable but there is still tons of competition. At the U of A the community clerkship spots are highly coveted because of the hands on opportunities (and subsequently the quality of the reference letters that can be obtained) provided. There are only 20 spots and usually 40 serious applicants. There is competition for club leadership (CV building) and sometimes it can be down right cut-throat. The year I was applying for leadership of the emergency medicine club there were 20 people interested in 3 positions. Then there is just the ordinary everyday run of the mill social status and class politics that permeates everything. Medical school is like a repeat of high school with the same playground prison complex, the nonstop fashion show, and the relentless competition to determine who is the smartest person in the room. I personally hated high school the first time around, having to repeat it with a collection of some of the most socially inept and emotionally stunted helicopter parented children has been soul crushing. Can't recall which class it is, either the 2017s or 2018s, but they were pushing the professionalism button (anonymous electronic professionalism complaint)  on each other so much the faculty seriously considered scrapping the whole thing. They were ratting each other out for the most minor of offences. 4 years is a long time to have to play nice with the gestapo; seriously its like a never ending north korean birthday party.

 

U of C on the other hand has an average age of 26-27, has a pile of PhD and masters peeps, and is known as a laid back group with some variation from year to year.  

 

You would think that none of this matters and that you are only there for the education, and yes social involvement is on a sliding scale but it cannot be avoided altogether. You still end up spending 6-8 hours a day with your class preclerk and significantly more time with a select group during clerkship.

 

The pass/fail thing only matters for preclerk as well. As soon as clerkship starts its back to game on. Then the amount you engage (and are engaged) in competition comes down to what residency you want and how vocal you are about getting it. I know of many people who wanted competitive specialties who kept it quiet until the CaRMS tour because they didn't want the target on their back. Two people who got emerge last year surprised everyone because they kept it to themselves so well to avoid the emerge war. If you want general pathology and no one considers you much of a threat then this is all moot but if you are an optho or anesthesia gunner and look good on paper then you are standing in between someone and their dreams. Determined and driven people usually get want they want. Determined, driven, and amoral never fail.

 

This is all my own personal opinion, and comes after 5 years (sickness not failure, this is not a vendetta just run of the mill jadedness) of slogging through this so don't take it as fact. The U of A is a great school in many respects but so is the U of C and so is Queens and almost everywhere in Canada. If I could offer any advice on how I would chose it would be with an eye on what and where you want to do residency because then it matters. If you want to do urology then U of C is not for you. They have no program of their own and only match usually 1 person a year. If you want cardiac surgery then U of A is great because they have a program and it's notoriously brutal meaning that no want wants it, meaning you could slide into with home field advantage. If you just want family medicine then go to Queens, they have an excellent family program and a nice small cohesive class. Calgary's family medicine program on the other hand is probably the worst in the country or fighting hard for the honor. Just my two cents. GL

 

 

I'm absolutely floored that this is even that easy to do. Why would the administration even encourage it? Sure, I understand it's important to be professional, and also important to make sure that people do not tarnish the program, but is it truly necessary to make it this easy to complain about someone?

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I'm absolutely floored that this is even that easy to do. Why would the administration even encourage it? Sure, I understand it's important to be professional, and also important to make sure that people do not tarnish the program, but is it truly necessary to make it this easy to complain about someone?

 

*secretly sends a complaint about bearpuppy complaining that it's too easy to complain about others  :ph34r:

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I'm absolutely floored that this is even that easy to do. Why would the administration even encourage it? Sure, I understand it's important to be professional, and also important to make sure that people do not tarnish the program, but is it truly necessary to make it this easy to complain about someone?

My bad, I should clarify that the button was designed to report abuses (and good behavior) by faculty and allied health support staff. It was never intended to report on your peers which added to anger over its misuse.

 

https://www.med.ualberta.ca/programs/md/professionalism

https://www.med.ualberta.ca/programs/pair

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Though I'm not a student there, I have a strong interest in attending the school because of its initiative to advocate for rural and Aboriginal healthcare issues. I understand other universities do this as well, but it's what interests me most about UofA.

 

I really hope you get in :D unfortunately, I cannot help you but I will definitely find you and befriend you ASAP! 

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TLDR: UofA is a great program. You will not regret going to the UofA, even if you had multiple options.

 

Things I find that work well:

1. Our program has both regular small-group and lecture based learning that go seamlessly together (i.e. what you talk about in small groups is supplemented in the classroom). Course progression makes sense.

2. Vodcasts (in HD)

3. Instructors are awesome. You learn things you will eventually use in practice.

4. Unlimited and early shadowing opportunities. Be in the ER or witness an OR procedure in your 1st week of med school type thing.

5. 4-year program. Haven't spoken to anyone who would prefer having no summers. It's a guilt-free way to spend your last 2 summers as students.

6. Tons of financial aid, bursaries, scholarships

7. Free lunch almost every day (thanks to student groups)

8. Emphasis on your mental health (PDG, anyone?) and work-life balance (you can be as busy or relaxed as you want). I found myself having more time to pick up new/more hobbies (thank you, Pass/Fail system)

9.  Meeting awesome, driven people. Haven't really heard of anyone using the Professionalism button.

10. Videotaped practice sessions, learning with standardized patients early.

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To echo what's already been mentioned above (a 1st year's perspective): 

 

Pros

- Teaching (basic science, clinical, anatomy labs): preclerkship is organised into blocks containing anatomy/physiology/diseases/pathology/physical exam skills; assigned a family medicine preceptor to work on those skills throughout the year; anatomy dissections are a great way to learn anatomy, but bit of an overkill 

- Facilities: top notch lecture theatre, great clinical skills area, all health sciences disciplines close by, physically connected to the biggest hospital in Edmonton (and NW Canada) 

- Clinical Experience: being in a teaching hospital, they are very used to learners being around; shadow all the time or don't shadow at all 

- Rural medicine: RPAP puts on several events throughout the year with costs to small towns covered by them 

- Academics oriented: if you want research, there's plenty of opportunities  

- LAW office: two paediatricians and psychologist assigned for well-being of medical students; they are fantastic! 

- Sports (especially hockey) and Social events

- Transit: train stops at the two major hospitals (U of A and Royal Alex hospitals) 

- Social life: honestly, I think we are quite spoiled with the amount of free time we are given; it's busy though because almost everyone is involved in so many initiatives! 

 

 

Cons

- not enough procedural skills training early on (student groups will hold sessions but they are often limited in terms of capacity) 

- introductory block =  -_- (they make changes every year... hopefully, they'll get it right next year) 

- some "fluffy" components of physicianship course without going into details 

 

The faculty and 2019s will be present on both days of the interview, so feel free to grill us with questions! Good luck everyone! 

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Pros:

Big new teaching buildings with simulators, stimualtors, and everything else you could want.

Resource rich, high end ORs, well equipped small group rooms, money for clubs.

"Academic school" lots of research, some big names in the game.

Almost every residency program offered except vascular, thoracic, and a couple other odd ones. Your odds of getting something exotic/difficult are better from your home school.

Excellent match stats. We had 4 people match optho last year and only a handful of unmatched with only 1 after the second round

Tim Horton's 5 steps in front of the main lecture theater

Main campus and secondary site on train route. Transit pass part of tuition.

Low(est?) English speaking tuition

Medium sized class ~165

Community placement for 20 or so students who want it for 3rd year clerkship if you dig rural med

Huge catchment = interesting cases. All of the territories, northern BC and Sask plus around 1.5 mil in Alberta

 

Cons:

1. "Academic school" obsessed with high scoring on the LMCC so we go overkill on tests, 2nd year OSCE, 2nd year cumulative, 2nd year anatomy cumulative, OSCE and written for most rotations, then 4th year OSCE, and a 4th year comp 3 weeks before LMCC (bonus is our comp is about 10x harder than the LMCC and they spend a ton of time getting us ready for it)

2. Young school. Average age is ~22, way more 2nd and 3rd year candidates, few masters or PhD peeps

3. Ridiculously high acceptance GPA = gunners who gunningly gun

4. Some overkill clerkship rotations. 8 weeks on CTU internal + 3 weeks geri + 3 weeks subspecialty = shoot me

5. Some stupid clerkship exams. Our psych exam is the American R3 exam or something like that. Terrible pass rate on our internal exam which blows when you have to rewrite wile on another rotation. Faculty doesn't care either because people have been complaining for years.

6. No one goes so far to enforce stupid rules. We screw people over if their elective requests aren't submitted in time, our absence policy is right out of prewar Germany, too many mandatory classes with sign in sheets.

7. Some of our residency programs are notoriously toxic and that makes its way down to the clerks when they are on those rotations.

8. It really is that cold and I've lived here most my life. In the winter you don't see the sun for months, the mountains are far away, we don't salt or even scrape roads, the summer is short and super hot, and if its a mosquito year watch out.

9. We have two catholic dumps for community hospitals, one of them is so bad it is flooded half the year and those child molesters who have no business getting in between patients and their providers find a way to jesusify everything

10. 4 week mandatory rural rotation for family medicine in 3rd year, comes with free John Deere Tractor hat and deliverance soundtrack.

11. No anesthesia rotation in clerkship, in fact no anesthesia teaching. Only electives which are really hard to get.

I really need to address some of those cons (numbers added to them by me for ease of reply)

 

1. I find this to be quite true- exams are excessive. Full stop. I think they try to justify it saying it prepares us for the LMCC, but it really really doesn't. Plus, I find several aren't representative of what we learn. I think they've changed that from my class to the 2019s. Hopefully. PS- you forgot all the weekly quizzes in 2nd year :P lol

3. Agreed to an extent. Difference is you have gunners who are also willing to help each other (class notes, exam review docs, etc). People really do help each other out a lot!

4+5. The psych exam is the NBME- clerkship exam all the American medical students do after their clerkship. It's not a resident's exam by any means. It's tough because the States actually use the scores to differentiate people for their CaRMS equivalent. Some clerkship exams are tough (OSCE or otherwise) but as long as your clinical performance is decent, they have no issue with you rewriting it at another time (their schedule of course). It's better than at some schools that will have you repeat the whole rotation or year for one failed exam!

6. I'm not sure what electives you've been applying to, but I've had no issue applying last minute (less than 4 weeks) for electives. I'm a procrastinator and haven't had any issues as long as the programs have capacity. (This is for UofA electives only. The AFMC (ie other med school) electives is a whole other ball game and not really the UofA's problem as they have no control over it). As for the absence policy- it can be a pain if you're requesting a flex day, but I've had no issue sending in absence requests for being ill. I know it can be inconsistently applied at times but it's hardly out of "prewar Germany"

7. You'll 100% find toxic residency programs anywhere. Overall, I find the residents very willing to teach and help if you're willing, pleasant, and helpful to the team. Typically of course. There'll always be the bad apple somewhere.

8. Edmonton is actually a beautiful city (yes, even in winter). Believe it or not, we have the 3rd most hours of sunshine in Canada despite our latitude. If you're on surgery or internal in the winter, I don't think there's a city in Canada where you'll see the sun before/after work! Jasper and Banff are both 4 hours away, there's 3 (or 4) ski hills right in the city and they definitely do scrape the roads and lay sand/rocks down. Too may rocks IMO (my car's windshield definitely doesn't like the fact they use rocks). The river valley is 22x bigger than NY's Central Park, we have a ton of festivals.. It might be cold here, but we make up for it in a lot of ways! (Not our hockey team, unfortunately..)

9. This is my biggest problem with everything you've written. The Misericordia and Grey Nuns Hospital are two of the hospitals that I've had the best teaching experiences at. They provide extremely supportive environments, more one on one time with preceptors, and you really see a lot of the common cases- enough to be comfortable with them at the end of the rotation. Neither are "dumps" and both provide excellent care to patients- just like the University Hospitals and Royal Alex. And to call them "child molesters" is completely and utterly 100% uncalled for. I hope you treat your Catholic patients with more understanding and less contempt than what you've demonstrated here.

 

 

As for the professionalism button, it was intended for use by anyone on anyone (attendings, allied health, residents, faculty, upper/lower years, and yes, colleagues). If it's been abused, that's to the detriment of the system itself. It's there (and everywhere on the faculty's website) to create an anonymous way for anyone to report unprofessional/abusive behaviour. If it's being excessively used by students to report their colleagues for silly things, then some teaching is definitely needed so people have a better idea what should be reported and what shouldn't. As someone that's experienced abuse in my medical training, I definitely appreciate the fact that it's there and I have the option of reporting it or not- anonymously. 

 

Overall, the UofA is a great school. I won't lie- after 4 years, I've had my ups and downs, but I wouldn't trade it for anywhere.

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I really need to address some of those cons (numbers added to them by me for ease of reply)

 

1. I find this to be quite true- exams are excessive. Full stop. I think they try to justify it saying it prepares us for the LMCC, but it really really doesn't. Plus, I find several aren't representative of what we learn. I think they've changed that from my class to the 2019s. Hopefully. PS- you forgot all the weekly quizzes in 2nd year :P lol

3. Agreed to an extent. Difference is you have gunners who are also willing to help each other (class notes, exam review docs, etc). People really do help each other out a lot!

4+5. The psych exam is the NBME- clerkship exam all the American medical students do after their clerkship. It's not a resident's exam by any means. It's tough because the States actually use the scores to differentiate people for their CaRMS equivalent. Some clerkship exams are tough (OSCE or otherwise) but as long as your clinical performance is decent, they have no issue with you rewriting it at another time (their schedule of course). It's better than at some schools that will have you repeat the whole rotation or year for one failed exam!

6. I'm not sure what electives you've been applying to, but I've had no issue applying last minute (less than 4 weeks) for electives. I'm a procrastinator and haven't had any issues as long as the programs have capacity. (This is for UofA electives only. The AFMC (ie other med school) electives is a whole other ball game and not really the UofA's problem as they have no control over it). As for the absence policy- it can be a pain if you're requesting a flex day, but I've had no issue sending in absence requests for being ill. I know it can be inconsistently applied at times but it's hardly out of "prewar Germany"

7. You'll 100% find toxic residency programs anywhere. Overall, I find the residents very willing to teach and help if you're willing, pleasant, and helpful to the team. Typically of course. There'll always be the bad apple somewhere.

8. Edmonton is actually a beautiful city (yes, even in winter). Believe it or not, we have the 3rd most hours of sunshine in Canada despite our latitude. If you're on surgery or internal in the winter, I don't think there's a city in Canada where you'll see the sun before/after work! Jasper and Banff are both 4 hours away, there's 3 (or 4) ski hills right in the city and they definitely do scrape the roads and lay sand/rocks down. Too may rocks IMO (my car's windshield definitely doesn't like the fact they use rocks). The river valley is 22x bigger than NY's Central Park, we have a ton of festivals.. It might be cold here, but we make up for it in a lot of ways! (Not our hockey team, unfortunately..)

9. This is my biggest problem with everything you've written. The Misericordia and Grey Nuns Hospital are two of the hospitals that I've had the best teaching experiences at. They provide extremely supportive environments, more one on one time with preceptors, and you really see a lot of the common cases- enough to be comfortable with them at the end of the rotation. Neither are "dumps" and both provide excellent care to patients- just like the University Hospitals and Royal Alex. And to call them "child molesters" is completely and utterly 100% uncalled for. I hope you treat your Catholic patients with more understanding and less contempt than what you've demonstrated here.

 

 

As for the professionalism button, it was intended for use by anyone on anyone (attendings, allied health, residents, faculty, upper/lower years, and yes, colleagues). If it's been abused, that's to the detriment of the system itself. It's there (and everywhere on the faculty's website) to create an anonymous way for anyone to report unprofessional/abusive behaviour. If it's being excessively used by students to report their colleagues for silly things, then some teaching is definitely needed so people have a better idea what should be reported and what shouldn't. As someone that's experienced abuse in my medical training, I definitely appreciate the fact that it's there and I have the option of reporting it or not- anonymously. 

 

Overall, the UofA is a great school. I won't lie- after 4 years, I've had my ups and downs, but I wouldn't trade it for anywhere.

 

Thank you for using this opportunity to try and negate my opinions and experience instead of simply compiling your own list of pro's and cons. As this is the first post with your user profile you are either new to this site or created a new user profile just to post on this topic and respond to what I said; I am flattered. I of course I think it is perfectly acceptable to disagree with me or any other poster on this site and I think the more opinions that are expressed the closer people can get to getting a real picture of what med school is like at the U of A and the more informed people following this post can be when it comes time to make their decision. That being said I wish you would have done it in a less antagonistic way. You are obviously upset by some of the things I said and with the tone in which I said them. You are entitled to that. Frankly I am getting a little tired of having to explain my sense of humor and it seems more and more that people on this site assume that everything is literal. In all sincerity, because the topic is something that involves a great deal of pride for a lot of people I probably should have taken greater care with my language but at the same time you need to dial it back a touch. Since we are obviously in the same class and from the same school I will extend you the courtesy of explaining my opinions on a few the points you took issue with. Even if it is not for your benefit it might help with people who have been following and may be deciding on the U of A in the upcoming months.  

 

1. I did forget about the quizzes. I know you likely agreed with me on this point to build some sort of rapport or show that you can be reasonable, I especially enjoyed the smiley face, but I'm glad you could reinforce this point. I too feel like there is a fairly large disconnect between what is taught and what is tested and in many cases we get quizzed on minutia reinforcing what I spoke to later that the U of A has a very "academic" bend.

 

3. There are some great people at the U of A and there is a lot of collegiality. I would say this is especially true of the 2016 class. However, this is also true of most schools (at least those using a pass fail system) and my point was touching on how the U of A focuses quiet heavily on GPA for admissions, so much so that I (personally) think it is to our detriment in that we pick people who are more driven and potentially cut throat over people who may be more collegial but with a lower GPA. 

 

4. Thank you for clarifying the specifics of the psych exam but it does not negate the fact that it is a terrible test and in my opinion does not correlate with the what we have been taught or the depth that we were taught on that rotation. Yes,  I am glad the U of A does not make people repeat blocks for failed exams, that is an excellent point and maybe something you could include in your own pros and cons list.

 

6. The electives issue pertains to the large number of people in the 2015 and 2016 class who did not receive credit for electives completed due to clerical issues prior to the switch to the AFMC system. This was such a big problem that I'm sure if you check your inbox you will see a recent email addressing the problem. I personally know 3 people who had to repeat electives because the faculty was more concerned about the fact that preceptor names were not received on time. To me this speaks to the attitude of the faculty, namely that they are more concerned with red tape than they are of helping out their students. In all 3 cases the students were not procrastinators and did everything they could to play by the rules and still ended up spending extra time and money doing electives that were completely unnecessary. It is my opinion based on my experience.  

 

As for the pre-war Germany thing, this was a bad attempt at a joke. The language was inappropriate and I accept that. My problem with the absence policy is deep rooted having done most of my training before the implementation of the flex days and being someone that has required a large number of days off for various reasons. The whole absence policy to me is complete "overkill" (is that better?) and to me is completely "arbitrary". For instance you are not allowed to miss more than x number of days if a rotation is x number of weeks long or else it needs to be reviewed. There is also the strict deadlines with submitting absence notes. For all the talk the faculty goes on about us being adult learners they spend an inordinate amount of time holding our hand. The number of days that can be missed and what constitutes a legitimate reason for missing a day, or half day, or whatever should be up to the student and their immediate preceptor, not someone in an office with no handle on the student's level of performance. I have been threatened with a professionalism warning because I was unsure if I was supposed to submit a form because I had to go to emerge. It happened on a night I was supposed to be on call but I arranged someone else to cover my call. I didn't submit a form within the 2-3 days allotted because I was waiting for my preceptor to respond to me as to whether I needed to because was it an absence or was it a traded call shift? Maybe you have been fortunate that you haven't had to deal with this sort of thing during your time here but for my group of peers this is an ongoing and constant issue.

 

7. Yes there are some good residents at the U of A, in fact there are some great residents here, but the poster asked about the cons of our school and sticking our fingers in our ears and pretending that its perfect isn't fair to the person who asked the question. Ever look at the some of the lists that they make that have pictures of all the residents in the different programs? Ever wonder why some of the programs lists are shaped like a pyramid? Some of surgical programs hemorrhage people. When you have people switching out of extremely competitive subspecialties like plastics than your school has a culture problem. I'm glad you had a good time and got some good training but that is far from universal.

 

8. This is just a matter of opinion. I've lived in Edmonton for 15 years. There is a reason why we have a recruitment and retention problem with our top academics and there is a reason why our residency salary is so high. You may like it here but many people, especially those not born here don't dig it.

 

9. I didn't say anything about the quality of the preceptors or the level of training at either of our community hospitals and I'm glad you enjoyed your time at those sites. If you want to argue about the state of those hospitals go right ahead but a simple google search will revel just how decrepit the misercordia is, tearing it down was even a major part of the last provincial election. The building has been functioning under the threat of being condemned for the last 10 years. The nuns is nowhere near as bad but it is in bad need of renovations, especially to the emergency department. 

 

Now I obviously have a bone to pick with the fact that our school is partners with a catholic health institution, more on that in a second. But it is an extreme cheap shot to suggest that because of my opinion on that matter that I would somehow treat a catholic patient unprofessionally. I will have you know that I don't care what color or creed any of my patients are and as much as I may disagree with them on their politics, religion, or their own biases that never comes in to play in how I perform my duties and for you to suggest otherwise is what is completely uncalled for.

 

As for the "excellent care" these sites provide to patients, I'm sure you are not referring to family planning because when I was at the nuns I got to witness first hand how a formed patient was denied birth control. You certainly aren't referring to the limitations that are placed on the ob/gyns when it comes to performing terminations. Maybe you haven't been on call when a patient comes in with a threatened abortion and a fever and we have to delay care and send them to the RAH because the pastor/nun/deacon/whoever it is there that calls the shots won't let us provide standard care let alone excellent care and do a D+C. Or maybe you are referring to the fact that in a couple months from now we won't be able to do end of life care at either of those sites despite the fact that GNH has one of the larger geriatric units in the city because covenant health is resisting the supreme courts recent ruling.

 

Sure maybe I stepped over the line, and there is no denying what I said was not in keeping with a physician. I won't make excuses because there aren't any. The fact still remains that having them involved in healthcare is bad for patients and it is bad for training doctors. If you are coming to Edmonton for an education be prepared to have that censored and to be complicit in the substandard care that they provide at those sites. Be prepared to have to listen to them pray over the intercom and to have crosses in every single room. Even though it is 2016 and this is a multi cultural country with no official religion you won't know that when you enter either of those sites. 

 

The professionalism button. The button itself is good and serves a purpose. My point was referring to the fact that people misuse it and it speaks to #3. When the faculty has to come down and tell the students to stop ratting on each other than you may have selected the wrong people. 

 

Yes the U of A is a good school but so is everywhere else. I think people need to find what school is going to work best for them and the reason we have this site is so that people can get the straight goods otherwise we are just repeating the schools own talking points. 

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^ other than this being an extreme case of tl;dr, I will say you are entitled to your own opinion. But I will add some insight into some of it.

 

A school choosing to do NBME exams cannot be held against them. There are schools in Canada that purely do NBME exams. You cannot blame them for expecting their students to be testable at the level of american students. I will accept that you have serious issues with the exam itself.

 

The covenant health hospitals....yea for centers being built well after the university hospital is in pretty bad shape. But as a resident practicing in those centers too I've never seen their beliefs actually interfere with patient care. Mostly because the staff are not really overtly catholic let alone religious. I think you haven't seen what a true religious "nut" hospital in Canada looks like. May I point eastwards towards Quebec for you? :)

 

And as a person that probably has a lot more higher-level insight into the whole PAD thing, I think there is some grumblings from the administrators of covenant health, but not the physicians. In fact the only group of physicians that are making a fuss about it are the palliative care physicians. They did a poll of all the palliative care physicians in AB, and only 3 said they would even THINK of participating in PAD. As I understand it they think its almost an insult to the service they provide since they focus on providing quality of life all the way to the end, not "putting people out of their misery" early. So the fact that the tertiary palliative care unit is based in the nuns doesn't mean their stance on PAD reflects the covenant health system, but the palliative care physicians....at least half of whom are not even christian let alone catholic.

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I don't want to get into a whole thing here suffice it to say that the kind of people who can pull off a 4.0 while volunteering and engaging in multiple ECs have certain personality traits that sometimes don't correlate well to turning off the competition switch even when there is no incentive (not everyone of course but stereotypes exist for a reason).

 

The pass/fail system is great and definitely makes med school palatable but there is still tons of competition. At the U of A the community clerkship spots are highly coveted because of the hands on opportunities (and subsequently the quality of the reference letters that can be obtained) provided. There are only 20 spots and usually 40 serious applicants. There is competition for club leadership (CV building) and sometimes it can be down right cut-throat. The year I was applying for leadership of the emergency medicine club there were 20 people interested in 3 positions. Then there is just the ordinary everyday run of the mill social status and class politics that permeates everything. Medical school is like a repeat of high school with the same playground prison complex, the nonstop fashion show, and the relentless competition to determine who is the smartest person in the room. I personally hated high school the first time around, having to repeat it with a collection of some of the most socially inept and emotionally stunted helicopter parented children has been soul crushing. Can't recall which class it is, either the 2017s or 2018s, but they were pushing the professionalism button (anonymous electronic professionalism complaint)  on each other so much the faculty seriously considered scrapping the whole thing. They were ratting each other out for the most minor of offences. 4 years is a long time to have to play nice with the gestapo; seriously its like a never ending north korean birthday party.

 

U of C on the other hand has an average age of 26-27, has a pile of PhD and masters peeps, and is known as a laid back group with some variation from year to year.  

 

You would think that none of this matters and that you are only there for the education, and yes social involvement is on a sliding scale but it cannot be avoided altogether. You still end up spending 6-8 hours a day with your class preclerk and significantly more time with a select group during clerkship.

 

The pass/fail thing only matters for preclerk as well. As soon as clerkship starts its back to game on. Then the amount you engage (and are engaged) in competition comes down to what residency you want and how vocal you are about getting it. I know of many people who wanted competitive specialties who kept it quiet until the CaRMS tour because they didn't want the target on their back. Two people who got emerge last year surprised everyone because they kept it to themselves so well to avoid the emerge war. If you want general pathology and no one considers you much of a threat then this is all moot but if you are an optho or anesthesia gunner and look good on paper then you are standing in between someone and their dreams. Determined and driven people usually get want they want. Determined, driven, and amoral never fail.

 

This is all my own personal opinion, and comes after 5 years (sickness not failure, this is not a vendetta just run of the mill jadedness) of slogging through this so don't take it as fact. The U of A is a great school in many respects but so is the U of C and so is Queens and almost everywhere in Canada. If I could offer any advice on how I would chose it would be with an eye on what and where you want to do residency because then it matters. If you want to do urology then U of C is not for you. They have no program of their own and only match usually 1 person a year. If you want cardiac surgery then U of A is great because they have a program and it's notoriously brutal meaning that no want wants it, meaning you could slide into with home field advantage. If you just want family medicine then go to Queens, they have an excellent family program and a nice small cohesive class. Calgary's family medicine program on the other hand is probably the worst in the country or fighting hard for the honor. Just my two cents. GL

Why is that? I've always though UofC is pretty good for primary care like family med and psych!

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I'm not a family gunner so in all fairness I probably shouldn't have talked trash about a program in a specialty I don't know much about. I am passing on what my peers who did match to family have said. The facts are for one reason or another they had 5 unmatched spots last year. Some believe this has something to do with how they do their scheduling. Again I don't have first hand knowledge but they have changed their program to move away from doing rotations and instead do half days on various services. So instead of doing a whole block of gen surge you would do a certain number of half days throughout your residency. There are probably a lot of ups to this that aren't readily apparent and it probably works well for some people but within my small social circle (including a couple Calgary R1s) it doesn't seem to be very well received. If you want the straight goods you should probably talk to someone better qualified than me.

 

Also, If anyone from Calgary family med or any other program doesn't like what I said, it's just my stupid opinion, it's nothing personal, it is just joking around re: Edmonton vs Calgary rivalry, I should have probably used a smiley face emoji. Please feel free to jump in and educate us all and fire back.  

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Hi, I was browsing through the forums and I was having a tough time finding current UofA med students' perspectives on why UofA is a great program.

Could some students currently in the program shed some light on their thoughts and experiences and what makes UofA a better choice than some other programs, along with what its weaknesses are? I'm not from Alberta and have never visited so some general comments on Edmonton and the campus would be welcome as well!

I graduated from U of A five years ago, so some of the fine details of the curriculum are likely now changed. I can offer a bit of perspective on U of A as someone on the other side (I am a PGY 5 resident in Calgary gearing up for royal college exams).

 

You will hear that all schools in Canada are high quality, and I believe that to be true. Where U of A seems to stand out is academic rigor. Having the experience of rotating through many different services in other cities in Canada, I now can see some of the differences. In my opinion Edmonton seems to both demand and reward a higher level of performance and competence in medical students and it shows in newly finished grads. Of course you must take what I say with a grain of salt as UA was my school, but in my intern year in Calgary staff repeatedly commented that I was functioning at 1-2 years higher than expected in terms of independence, comfort with procedures, etc, and some staff went so far as to say that this is typical in comparing U of A to U of C grads. I also see this interacting with clerks from different schools on a day to day basis now being a senior resident.

 

That being said, I truly believe that after a five year residency you would not find a difference in performance based on what medical school an individual attended. We all end up trained the same. Coming to the end of my residency, however, I believe that U of A gave me a serious leg up in general competence and confidence that I still benefit from because of what it demanded of me (especially in clerkship).

 

As a permanent transplant to Calgary (which is where I will be returning to work after heading to Boston for a year), I would choose U of A again for medical school without any doubt in my mind. I am also very curious to see if any of my old classmates who moved around the country for different residencies (and might still read this board from time to time) feel the same since they've seen how things are run at other institutions.

 

Anybody?

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To echo what's already been mentioned above (a 1st year's perspective): 

 

Pros

- Teaching (basic science, clinical, anatomy labs): preclerkship is organised into blocks containing anatomy/physiology/diseases/pathology/physical exam skills; assigned a family medicine preceptor to work on those skills throughout the year; anatomy dissections are a great way to learn anatomy, but bit of an overkill 

- Facilities: top notch lecture theatre, great clinical skills area, all health sciences disciplines close by, physically connected to the biggest hospital in Edmonton (and NW Canada) 

- Clinical Experience: being in a teaching hospital, they are very used to learners being around; shadow all the time or don't shadow at all 

- Rural medicine: RPAP puts on several events throughout the year with costs to small towns covered by them 

- Academics oriented: if you want research, there's plenty of opportunities  

- LAW office: two paediatricians and psychologist assigned for well-being of medical students; they are fantastic! 

- Sports (especially hockey) and Social events

- Transit: train stops at the two major hospitals (U of A and Royal Alex hospitals) 

- Social life: honestly, I think we are quite spoiled with the amount of free time we are given; it's busy though because almost everyone is involved in so many initiatives! 

 

 

Cons

- not enough procedural skills training early on (student groups will hold sessions but they are often limited in terms of capacity) 

- introductory block =  -_- (they make changes every year... hopefully, they'll get it right next year) 

- some "fluffy" components of physicianship course without going into details 

 

The faculty and 2019s will be present on both days of the interview, so feel free to grill us with questions! Good luck everyone! 

 

Is that for when the students start acting childish? :P

 

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I'm in the same boat as BrendanJ, as we were classmates in the Class of 2011 (5 years out from UofA Med, currently writing Royal College). I don't have too much to add and am mainly echoing his sentiments about the rigor of UofA. When I was a clerk doing electives across the country, I was told I was well above the level of an SI3/4 and was given a lot more responsibility than other clerks - those responsibilities were on par with what I'd be doing on a day to day basis during my core rotations at UofA.

 

I also agree that at the end of a 5 year residency, it really doesn't matter where you will have graduated from. It mainly determines how you handle PGY1 with all the foundational/general rotations. I stayed here for residency, so it was basically a continuation of clerkship for me (though it's hard for me to comment on what a program at another centre is like). While the hours were long during PGY-1, I never found the clinical duties to be overly strenuous or unrealistic. The work ethic and expectations you develop for yourself really help you throughout residency, and I imagine this will further translate into the rest of my career as well. Would definitely pick UofA again.

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