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Reasons to choose U of A if you are undecided


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In case anyone is on the fence and would like a better insight to the life of a medical student here at the University of Alberta :)

 

Curriculum = Pass/Fail

We operate on a 4 year program split into 2 years of preclinical and 2 years of clerkship.

Year 1: Starts off with a bang during Orientation Week

Intro (5 weeks), Infection/Immunity/Inflammation aka Triple I (7 weeks), Endocrinology and Metabolism (6 weeks), Cardio (6 weeks), Pulmonary (4 weeks), Renal (4 weeks).

Usually one final exam per block and a midterm exam for the longer ones. Intro block has 3 weekly quizzes that DO NOT COUNT :)

Concurrent Patient Centered Care and Evidence based medicine/Community health longitudinal courses.

 

Starting in Cardio block, you have 2 hours of anatomy lab per week. We are a full dissection lab, and our anatomy department is second to none. Dr. Walji is an anatomy god.

 

Friday afternoons are unscheduled time in first year :)

 

Summer is just under 4 months, no mandatory electives although you can certainly do so. Lots of time to do research or travel to far off lands.

 

Year 2:

GI (6 weeks), Repro/Urology (7 weeks), MSK (7 weeks), Neuro (11 weeks, includes developmental pediatrics, ENT, and psychiatry along with neurology), and Oncology (4 weeks).

Your first 3 blocks have weekly quizzes which free up your weekends, the others have the basic final exam and possible midterm. Anatomy lab up to 4 hours per week, and you learn so much in these sessions if you put in the time.

 

Patient centered care runs longitudinally. Usually 1-2 afternoons per week.

 

In first and second year, you also have block clinical skills sessions and mandatory Gilbert's (which is small group physical exam, 4-5 in a group). This is where you learn how to take a history and do a physical exam. You will be on the wards learning on real patients and also on standardized patients. 10 sessions in first year, 15 sessions in second year.

 

On average, you have a minimum of one half day per week unscheduled time, often 2 half days. Plenty of time to shadow. All lectures are vodcasted. Discovery learning (small group learning, sort of like PBL but you work through a case, identify learning objectives and research them) is 3 times per week for 5 hours total.

In some blocks you will have case based learning tutorials weekly.

 

At the end of Year 2 you have a final OSCE, OSPE (clinical bellringer) and Comprehensive exam. Though I haven't written any of these, I would happily say that I feel adequately prepared by our faculty to get on the wards next year.

 

We get 10 weeks of well deserved vacation between 2nd and 3rd year, many of us are doing a few weeks of electives, travelling, and some are doing research. This is crucial. We are all slightly burned out, I have no idea how the three year programs do it... every single second year student is counting down the days till our freedom!!!!!

 

Preclerkship Clinical Exposure/Shadowing

 

This is what you make of it. We have plenty of time in our schedules to arrange shadowing from Day 1. Many of the clubs have shadowing lists with emails of preceptors who are happy to take students. In first year, you will have 6 community based experiences in a family physician's office (upgraded from 3 in previous years). A lot of the clubs also have sign up sheets so if you want to shadow in Emerg, Anesthesia, General Surgery or Cardiology - including cath lab, stress tests, ECG and ECHO - all you have to do is put your name down. In second year, almost every block coordinator has a shadowing sign up so in GI you can see endoscopy, in Repro you spend time in the case room for deliveries, in Neuro you can be on stroke team or neursurgery and in oncology you can shadow any discipline you want. It's really hard not to get early exposure.

 

We have mandatory 12 hour preclinical electives that have to be completed within the year, and no other mandatory horizontal electives. But I would consider this like PBL in a sense - you get what you make of that opportunity. If you're keen, you can certainly shadow every week. If you're busy near exams, no pressure.

 

Year 3:

Starts with a 2 week link block. There are a ton of different tracks with various permutations of the following core rotations - (weeks)

Surgery and Anesthesia (7)

Internal Medicine (8)

Pediatrics (8)

Psychiatry (6)

Obstetrics and Gynecology (6)

Family medicine (4 urban, 4 rural)

5 weeks unscheduled time, mandatory to do 3 weeks of electives.

You do 1 in 4 call on most rotations, and can be at several different tertiary and community hospitals in Edmonton.

 

Option to do the integrated community clerkship program where you spend 9 months at a rural site doing all these cores at once (I've heard nothing but amazing things, the students are first call to everything) and you get 3 weeks of a selective and 5 weeks elective time. This was quite competitive this year, I think ~35-40 people applied for 21 spots. Sites include Hinton, Sylvan Lake, Peace River, Slave Lake and Bonnyville (there are more, I can't remember)

 

Year 4:

15 weeks of unscheduled time, I think you have to do 10 weeks of electives minimum?

Subspecialty surgery (3 services x 2 weeks)

Geriatrics (3)

Internal medicine subspecialty (3)

Emergency medicine (3)

3 week break for CaRMs tour

 

2 week comprehensive review + final OSCE and LMCC

 

I can't comment as much on clerkship as I'm not quite there yet but I've heard we have a great set up. It's nice that we are able to go through all our cores and also have so much elective time in fourth year to travel to different schools and do supporting diversifiers. U of A residency programs are often within the top 3 in the country. Because we serve a huge area (the territories, northern BC, northern Sask) we get insane volume and the medicine here is really diverse.

 

The 2011 match went pretty well for us, almost 40% of our class matched to family because they loved it, and then we had people go to every single competitive specialty minus cardiac surgery, probably because there are no jobs. That would include plastics, ENT, ophtho, derm, urology and 9 to radiology (!!!!).

 

Campus and Facilities

 

We are currently in the brand new Katz building (http://www.campusmap.ualberta.ca/index.cfm?campus=1&sector=5&feature=64) which we borrowed from Pharmacy... so they are building the Edmonton Clinic, which is a huge deal.

http://www.edmontonclinic.ca/

I don't know much about it but it's going to be awesome. Eventually we will have lectures and do our exams in there.

We have a beautiful lecture theatre with a Tim Hortons located outside. We have at least 20 small group rooms with flat screen TVs and a computer. Our anatomy lab is full dissection (most schools do prosected) which means you are the one who cuts and finds all the structures. Budding surgeons, this school is for you. Don't like cadavers so much? You'll get used to it :) It's a great experience and I'm very grateful to have had that learning opportunity.

Also, UofA medical school is attached to the UAH hospital. Makes shadowing a breeze. The Cross Cancer institute is a few blocks away too. And the Mazankowski Center is top notch for cardiology and cardiac surgery (it's also so, so beautiful).

 

Faculty Support

 

We have a great faculty that truly listens to its students. You all met Dr. Stobart (Dean of UME) and Dr. Moreau (Dean of Admissions) on Interview day. Dr. Melanie Lewis is our dean of Learner Advocacy and Wellness (student affairs) and she's fantastic. We have great career counsellors lead by Dr. Cecilia Baxter, who has been doing that job for many, many years. Our faculty puts on Leadership forums, which are designated hour long open mic sessions where you get to bring up any issues you have, and the deans come to communicate to us face to face. Our block coordinators are organized and very approachable. Dr. North, who is the Oncology block coordinator, won a national teaching award this year.

 

Student Life

 

U of A students like to have fun. There are so many clubs and interest groups to join in your first month at school. We go to Icebowl (Western canadian school hockey tournament) in September. There are block parties at the end of each exam. Students play in many intramural teams, including hockey, dodgeball, inner tube water polo and soccer. We went paintballing. We have an outdoor hockey tournament in February and a inter-class tournament in April. There's a ski trip, there's the Alberta Medical Student Conference and Retreat in Banff. 60 (that's 1/3 of my class) students went to Mexico for Reading Week. I can't even describe how much there is to do! On top of that, our students are super involved in the community and the faculty with different projects and initiatives. Our med students are diverse in their interests and backgrounds - even though our average age is 24 I would say the range is from 19-40 ish on entry.

 

Edmonton living

 

It isn't as bad as I expected when I moved. U of A campus is conveniently located on Whyte Ave, which is the trendy part of Edmonton with bars and shops and restaurants. It's also bordered by the River valley, where you can bike and run. Cost of living is reasonable. Winter sucks, but the summer has been surprisingly nice so far.

 

Procrastinating for Comp by convincing people to come here is a lot of fun!!!

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Of course. They can't send 190 students rural for 9 months. You have to apply for ICC and go for interviews. You will have to go for 4 weeks to a rural site for family medicine, they provide housing and comp your gas there. And they will take special consideration to put you closer to Edmonton if you are a parent, but for most of us we go wherever they choose.

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One important thing about anatomy is that you are NOT tested on it in the first year. I absolutely loved this. I have no desire to go into surgery and thus I have no desire to learn every single muscle/nerve/vein/artery that is out there.

 

It is totally up to you to get what you want out of anatomy class. The class notes do highlight the important anatomical points that you will need to understand/diagnose common things but it doesn't forcefeed you minutia. You are however totally welcome to sit over the cadaver until your feet get sore (or so they say, I've never gone afterhours lol).

 

We do have several quizzes though but like I said, they are not graded; they are merely for your benefit.

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One important thing about anatomy is that you are NOT tested on it in the first year. I absolutely loved this. I have no desire to go into surgery and thus I have no desire to learn every single muscle/nerve/vein/artery that is out there.

 

It is totally up to you to get what you want out of anatomy class. The class notes do highlight the important anatomical points that you will need to understand/diagnose common things but it doesn't forcefeed you minutia. You are however totally welcome to sit over the cadaver until your feet get sore (or so they say, I've never gone afterhours lol).

 

We do have several quizzes though but like I said, they are not graded; they are merely for your benefit.

This sounds nice. But is this only for first year or both years. I intended on knowing bare anatomy. I took it undergrad and like physiology, but didn't enjoy memorizing the muscles, bones, etc.

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Thanks for your informative help in this and other threads cardio.

 

I was wondering about summers, you say that there is an option to do electives in the summer, or travel to far off lands. Do people ever work for the summer to help pay down their debt or anything of that nature? Are the summers just somewhat unstructured, or are they completely free? I'm sorry if it's a dumb question, I was just a little confused.

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Summers are free time with no academic obligations. You can definitely work! Do whatever pleases you. Some people have previous occupations that can rake in good $$ so they go do that. I really valued my summers. I'm not gunning for a ROAD specialty but if you are considering any of them, you have 4 months to make money (albeit not a lot) and get your face known to a department. Some people shadow (not a formal elective) in the summer between first and second year because you can't do a clerkship elective at that time but it's great for experience to help you rule in/rule out different specialties. This year I really appreciate having 10 weeks because I can do some clerkship electives to bank time for 3rd and 4th year vacations.

 

In terms of anatomy, you'll find that once its clinically relevant you won't mind learning it so much. For example, knowing what the median nerve innervates and where it runs is crucial to understanding the presentation of carpal tunnel syndrome, so it all comes together.

 

I edited my post to include early clinical exposure, that's often an item of interest for people when considering schools.

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Wow. This is a very informative post. Thanks for taking time out of your hectic schedule as a med student to share with us. This has definitely help me seal the deal for UofA as my final choice! One stupid question though, my friends at UBC med have a bulk of exams in December and then at the year's end. Is this the way UofA does it or do they spread your exams out through the year?

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yep pretty much

 

good rule of thumb is if you have an exam or midterm you won't have another one for at least 3 weeks sometimes 6.

 

the sole exception in first year would be at the very end, where community health and the CPR final are held in the same week (but no pressure -- comm health doesn't take an extraordinary amount of extra time to study for by any means)

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