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Dr Strange Love

Is Mac A Bad Med School?

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I believe that this is what they call a leading question... All Canadian schools are pretty good. I'm sure they all have minor weaknesses, do you have any specific concerns? 

You would probably get more helpful answers if you did some of your own research comparing the schools you have offers from and then asked more specific questions based on what you find. 

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I saw your other thread asking about Queen's vs. Mac and it seems like you have some concerns over PBL and the lack of structure in the pre-clerk program.There is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding PBL and one of them is the lack of structure. There is structure in PBL: Every case and tutorial have very specifically defined goals of what you need to learn and accomplish. We also have lectures every week to ensure everyone is on the same page.

 

McMaster is by no means a bad medical school (although I may be biased) and if someone picks another institute over Mac, it will be because of personal preference and not because Mac is a bad school.

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just to add to that.. there are a lot of schools which are actually trying to incorporate more PBL/CBL-type learning into their curriculum, which means it is clearly an effective method to learn from or they wouldn't do this

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Like for anyone who's having a hard time choosing a med school with multiple offers, why or why not would Mac be your first choice?

 

it is a three year program with a style of learning some people really, really like. Its match rate is similar to other schools. 

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Some have noted the way clerkship is structured at Mac can make it a bit difficult at the beginning as you go on electives without having done much in terms of core rotations. Whether this has an impact on matching is unknown.

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Some have noted the way clerkship is structured at Mac can make it a bit difficult at the beginning as you go on electives without having done much in terms of core rotations. Whether this has an impact on matching is unknown.

 

McMaster has done studies to show that it has no impact on matching and the streams that you are assigned also has no impact on matching. Although these studies may be biased because they were done by Mac haha.

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McMaster has done studies to show that it has no impact on matching and the streams that you are assigned also has no impact on matching. Although these studies may be biased because they were done by Mac haha.

 

I would love to see how they designed that :) I mean the stream you are in may affect what you apply to as well. 

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I love mac med, personally. Your mileage may vary. 15 years ago it was definitely not a traditional medical school. nowadays there is more blurring between mac and more traditional schools than many appreciate. the PBL is more structured and there is more lectures. some people who were part of the program in earlier days personally dislike the fact that this has happened, believing that the original essence of the program was lost. I think it has reached a good balance with some challenges in the curriculum (anatomy as is often pointed out) but nothing that cant be surmounted by student. there are good resources available everywhere, and as a clerk and moreso as a resident less people will spoonfeed you knowledge. I think our pre-clerkship, if the student takes their own learning very seriously and has initiative, has a much better quality of life than others without sacrificing competency. 

 

this will differ for everyone, but what I appreciate most is the fact it is a three year program. I knew relatively early what I wanted and was able to select a clerkship stream, electives and research that were conducive to that goal. the more certain I became of my specialty the happier I was that I would be out in 3 years instead of 4. its one less year of tuition and I feel like I can get my life started with more certainty faster. others who are more uncertain of career choice may find this to their detriment. either way, the match rate is never catastrophic and overall quite the same, with a slightly above average proportion of mcmaster graduates selecting family medicine. 

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The curriculum is very different at Mac. I think its important to decide if you like the traditional learning approach or a more self directed learning approach. I personally rarely found people who by the end of PBL actually did not like PBL. It definitely can take some time to get used to, but by the time you figure it out its already over and you are moving onto clerkship so whether you like it or not you won't be dealing with it much moving forward. I think most schools in Ontario have adopted PBL in their own way. It is difficult to not like 1 on 8 teaching for 3 hours 2 x a week haha. The camaraderie built in these tutorials is also very nice and makes Mac students close. The issue is, self directed learning. Mac doesn't have many lectures, 6 hours a week most weeks. This means you have a lot of free time, but that time must be spent studying if you want to do well. It means that students are able to pursue their own goals, relax or research or juggle busy schedules, but at the same time it also can come back to bite you if you fall behind and find you are behind your peers in clerkship. If you are someone who likes studying on their own, Mac is for you, if you are someone who likes lectures, someone telling you want to study, you won't find enough of that direction at Mac. 

 

I think the issue mainly comes with the 3 year program. There is no question, if you matched to your first choice specialty and location and you felt you had the appropriate time to make that decision, you will love saving that extra year of time and tuition. The issue is, what if you feel rushed to make your decision, or what if you figure out in clerkship that you like something else. Unfortunately you will be left with that what if question and there are people in that boat at Mac. Unfortunately with Mac, it is difficult to switch specialties during clerkship compared to other schools because our electives are front ended and we only really have 8 months before CaRMS begins and it must not be lost on students that medical students book their electives 7 months in advance. Which means you need to know that you want ENT 7 months before your electives which means you are making your elective choices in July after your first year. Sometimes this will even be occuring before your post-MF4 electives (your 7 weeks in the summer where you get to explore specialties). Make no mistake, this is extremely early. Telling someone to start narrowing down their specialty choices after just a year of medical school is like telling someone to choose their wife after the 3rd date. 

 

Mac is looking into changing the curriculum, moving the start of medical school a few weeks forward to early August. I feel like any added time is beneficial, but I would still like to see clerkship start a bit earlier ideally to give students more clinical experience before deciding specialty and applying to CaRMS.

 

In terms of clerkship itself, Mac has a great clerkship with often a lot of hands on opportunities. One aspect of Mac's IM core is clerks are first call, i'm not sure if other schools do this as well but it does give you great learning opportunities. Our rotations are very busy which means you are exposed to high acuity cases and volume without it being diluted with too many fellows.

 

Regarding matching, sure Mac may have done studies about each stream matching similarly, but we don't have statistics published about how many people are applying to competitive specialties, how many people are getting their first choice location and how many people are being put off of competitive specialties because they don't feel competitive enough or feel that they don't have the time to make the switch. Matching is not just a simple one number thing. 

 

As a more general rule, do medical school where you want to do residency, do medical school where you want to live. Those are also very important factors to consider. 

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The way that I've personally seen McMaster students (as a result of their self driven learning) is sort of a bimodal distribution. On one end, you'll have exceptionally brilliant students that flourished in this supportive and self driven environment, who know more about medicine than any other student I've seen (these are fairly exceptional people that would have done well anywhere, but especially at McMaster) while you have another group of students that kind of get lost in the system without the structure and fear of "failing", often putting them on the lower end of the medical student spectrum. Personally, I think the AVERAGE McMaster medical student is a bit below the normal medical student average in Ontario (in terms of preclinical knowledge), but the good students are well above the good students in other schools. As Organomegaly mentioned, the 3 year degree is great for those coming in with a good knowledge of what they want to do, but for people that are unsure, it limits exploration and forces you to make a choice earlier than you should (as paraphrased by a 2019 mac med friend).

 

Just to clarify, this is an opinion based on what I've seen and statements from friends at Mac med. I went there for my undergrad and absolutely love the school and environment. 

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The way that I've personally seen McMaster students (as a result of their self driven learning) is sort of a bimodal distribution. On one end, you'll have exceptionally brilliant students that flourished in this supportive and self driven environment, who know more about medicine than any other student I've seen (these are fairly exceptional people that would have done well anywhere, but especially at McMaster) while you have another group of students that kind of get lost in the system without the structure and fear of "failing", often putting them on the lower end of the medical student spectrum. Personally, I think the AVERAGE McMaster medical student is a bit below the normal medical student average in Ontario (in terms of preclinical knowledge), but the good students are well above the good students in other schools. As Organomegaly mentioned, the 3 year degree is great for those coming in with a good knowledge of what they want to do, but for people that are unsure, it limits exploration and forces you to make a choice earlier than you should (as paraphrased by a 2019 mac med friend).

 

Just to clarify, this is an opinion based on what I've seen and statements from friends at Mac med. I went there for my undergrad and absolutely love the school and environment. 

 

eh. ive heard this type of argument come up. not sure how much evidence there is to back it. people aren't motivated by grades per se but there is your career on the line, and that is a potent motivator. if someone scrapes by getting the 60-70% needed to pass each exam at other med schools is that really any less "falling between the cracks?". 

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eh. ive heard this type of argument come up. not sure how much evidence there is to back it. people aren't motivated by grades per se but there is your career on the line, and that is a potent motivator. if someone scrapes by getting the 60-70% needed to pass each exam at other med schools is that really any less "falling between the cracks?". there are still measures at mac to make sure people are heading towards national standards, by the way. 

 

I guess the idea is that to pass a summative assessment (even scraping by with 60-70), you need to know an acceptable amount of information. People who do not pass need to remediate and show they have grasp of the bare minimum expected (which happens a lot more often than people think). If left to their own devices, such as at Mac, these students don't have that iron fist. We'd like to think that everyone entering medical school is extremely hardworking and driven, but that's far from reality.

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I guess the idea is that to pass a summative assessment (even scraping by with 60-70), you need to know an acceptable amount of information. People who do not pass need to remediate and show they have grasp of the bare minimum expected (which happens a lot more often than people think). If left to their own devices, such as at Mac, these students don't have that iron fist. We'd like to think that everyone entering medical school is extremely hardworking and driven, but that's far from reality.

 

eh you'd be surprised what you can accomplish by cramming and retaining nothing. by the way, there are other checks in place like serial PPIs and NBMEs in clerkship. I think part of what happens is that there is bias toward mac students insofar that when you see a bad clerk (like you can see anywhere) you start blaming their school because its different in order to bring order to your observations. it is probably just the student

 

anyway a good student will succeed anywhere. for people with multiple offers and choosing mac, I trust you've made a choice wherein the location of the school and the pedagogy will help you flourish, or maybe you are looking to come here for some of mac's solid residency programs. if mac is your only offer, I wouldn't feel dissuaded by some of this conversation. just use it to understand some of the flaws of the program and be diligent. there is as great an opportunity to succeed here as any other school as long as you are proactive. that's about as much as i have left to say on this topic

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Personally, I think the AVERAGE McMaster medical student is a bit below the normal medical student average in Ontario (in terms of preclinical knowledge), but the good students are well above the good students in other schools.

 

I have heard this too from residents I did electives with, but it seems that the cofounder is the early clerkship. Apparently comparing Mac students doing electives with other students doing electives seems to put Mac students a little below average but typically you're comparing 3rd year students with 4th year students. I was doing electives 3 months into my clerkship and I certainly performed way better on my electives at the end of clerkship (when other schools would be starting their elective periods).

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Having lived in US, UK and Australia for different periods the reputation of Canadian med schools seems really high. Not sure why I keep seeing this about their reputation on here so often :-/ Only thing I have against Mac is MMIs and CASPer - lol - why oh why!!!! 

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