Ross University Blog

DEAN'S CABINET SPOTLIGHT: Revamped Services Reinforce RUSM’s Focus on Students

March 02, 2015

Dr. Paula Wales leads charge in improving the student experience

From spearheading the launch of a new clinical advising model to participating on the team that brought new curriculum options to students, the improved student experience at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) can be largely attributed to the expertise and passion of Paula Wales, Ed.D, senior associate dean for Student Affairs.  Although Dr. Wales refuses to take sole credit for the latest quality changes and quickly acknowledges the role of faculty and colleagues in enhancing student services, she is arguably the driving force behind the strides made in recent years. 

Choosing RUSM

Dr. Wales joined the university in 2012 with the idealistic goal of making a difference in medical education, and according to her “the best place to do that was at Ross.”

However, Dr. Wales admits her first interest in RUSM was pure curiosity. She wanted to know what it was about the school that attracted one of the leading medical educators in the United States. At the time, Joseph Flaherty, MD, executive dean and chancellor of RUSM, had recently joined RUSM from the University of Illinois College of Medicine where he was dean. But, the more Dr. Wales learned about RUSM, her curiosity turned into fascination.

“I remember thinking, What’s with this school?” said Dr. Wales. “RUSM students enrolled with lower MCAT scores, but their [United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE)] Step 1 results were comparable to my students at Indiana.”

Although, making the decision to join the RUSM community wasn’t an easy one – she was born and raised in Indiana, she loved working at Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM), her child was in middle school and her husband owned a successful law firm – she was already committed to RUSM’s mission and formed a deep respect for the students’ exuberance toward medical education.

Providing Services that Matter

Dr. Wales was confident she could make significant contributions at RUSM by drawing upon her nearly 20 years of experience at IUSM. While at IUSM, Dr. Wales had several roles in both Student Affairs and Academic Affairs which gives her a holistic view of what is needed to have a seamless and productive student experience.

“The combination of my background in curriculum development and student services allows me to make changes that are meaningful – less arduous,” said Dr. Wales. “Let the students focus on medicine, not figuring out what paperwork to fill out.”

Making meaningful changes is exactly what Dr. Wales has done for the past three years. She first set her sights on enhancing the experience for clinical students. Perhaps, one of the most significant initiatives was the launch of the ROSS Model, an acronym for Rely On Student Service. The new clinical advisory model ensures that students who are dispersed throughout the country keep connected to RUSM, stay on track in terms of their clinical timelines, and receive the career and match advising they need to succeed.

Helping Students Become Doctors

“Students want to be doctors. They can only do that if they graduate and Match,” said Dr. Wales speaking about the National Resident Matching Program® where students are matched into residency positions in the United States to obtain additional clinical training. “We are not done with students when they graduate. We want to help them get jobs, we want to help them match.”

Under Dr. Wales leadership, clinical students have more opportunities to get ready for the Match™. For example, the Office of Student and Professional Development (OSPD) conducts mock interviews – via Skype™ or in person at the administrative office in Miramar, FL – to help students prepare for meetings with residency directors.

 “RUSM isn’t afraid to try new strategies,” said Dr. Wales. Some of the new approaches on the horizon include:

  • Increasing academic advising as the Center for Teaching and Learning will be incorporated into the new ROSS Model to provide continuity of academic guidance from the first semester to the end
  • OSPD advisors meeting with every RUSM student to talk about career plans
  • Providing subject examinations for each discipline to help prepare students for the USMLE

Keeping Students the Priority

Recent surveys indicate students are noticing and responding favorably to the changes.  Perhaps, one of the reasons students are responding well is because Dr. Wales has her finger on the pulse of student issues. She engages with students daily, particularly with those who are trying to overcome challenges.

“Half my time is spent directly with students. I speak with them everyday,” said Dr. Wales. “I often advise students who need extra support in addressing their situation. Our students are really smart and capable, sometimes life gets in the way. It’s fulfilling to help them through it.”

According to Dr. Wales, you have to care for medical students if you want to produce caring doctors. “RUSM is not a machine that churns out physicians,” said Dr. Wales. “RUSM works with students to help them throughout their medical education journey.”

Tags: Student Services

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