Ross University Blog

LEADERSHIP: Professorship at U of Illinois College of Medicine Named for RUSM Dean

January 17, 2017

“I am humbled and honored,” said RUSM’s Dean and Chancellor Joseph A. Flaherty, MD at the establishment of the Professorship in Child Psychiatry named for him at the University of Illinois College of Medicine (UICOM). Dr. Flaherty is a graduate of UIC, earned his MD there, and went on to serve as head of the psychiatry department and Dean of UICOM. “This Professorship is the extension of an already robust legacy of strong leadership and service to this institution,” said Dr. Anand Kumar, head of psychiatry.

The event was celebrated at a reception hosted by the department of psychiatry on Sept. 19, 2016. There was a gathering of people including some of Dr. Flaherty’s former students and residents, and even his first patient from the time he was a medical student in psychiatry, with whom he’s kept in touch all these years.


Tags: Leadership , Illinois , Flaherty

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DEAN'S BLOG: Dean Flaherty's End-of-Year Message for 2016

December 28, 2016

This blog entry was written by Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, dean and chancellor of Ross University School of Medicine.

It has been a good year at Ross University School of Medicine. Our graduates attained more than 780 residencies in 2016 in more than 15 disciplines, including pediatrics, surgery, internal medicine, family medicine, neurology, anesthesiology, radiology, and more. There were some high-profile matches, such as the one in which a Ross graduate matched into the exceptionally competitive neurological surgery program at SUNY Upstate Medical Center. We have also developed new clinical partnerships that should be helpful to us next year.

Among the highlights of the year is the rollout and implementation of the core clerkship curriculum online. All cores now have weekly learning tasks and required lectures, with online alternative learning materials for the lectures that are not delivered in person by site faculty. This will help to ensure that students’ educational experiences will be comparable across sites.

The curriculum committee on campus continues to do outstanding work in an effort to integrate and decompress the basic science curriculum to introduce more small group and team-based learning as well as formative assessment.

Another accomplishment this year has been the reuniting of our enrollment, admissions and marketing efforts into one unit under Vice Dean Peter Goetz. Filling key positions on this team are three people who have returned to Ross: Jamie Drucker, senior director of marketing; Sean Powers, national director of admissions; and Jennifer Yao, director of enrollment management. We are also pleased to announce the successful recruitment of Tyrone Donnon, Ph.D, to serve as director of the Center for Teaching and Learning on the Dominica campus.

This year we reaffirmed our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and respect for students, colleagues and all humanity. This is a statement of our deeply-held values and our pledge to uphold them. We are proud of the great diversity among our 12,000+ alumni, and our students and colleagues, throughout the years and today. We strongly believe it is our diversity that results in our success in supplying our nation’s doctors in primary care and in poor rural and urban areas.  We have been getting the word out about several aspects of our medical education program, the quality of our graduates, many of them from underrepresented minorities, and their post-graduation outcomes, including the fact that so many are choosing to practice in underserved areas.    

Some of the publications in the media in which my op-eds have appeared include, “Chicago needs a more diverse pool of doctors,” in Crain’s on June 28, and “International medical graduates help fill NY's primary care needs,” on, December 14.

We look forward to ringing in 2017 as another successful year for our school. I wish you a good holiday season and a happy, healthy New Year.

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DEAN'S BLOG: Are We Getting Used to Interrupting—and Being Interrupted?

November 30, 2016

Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, Dean and Chancellor of Ross University School of Medicine

Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, Dean and Chancellor of Ross University School of Medicine

This blog entry was written by Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, dean and chancellor of Ross University School of Medicine.

I’m a little irritated when I turn on the news and all I hear are three or four people all talking over each other. I want to hear a discussion, an argument, a counter-argument. It’s important to get varying viewpoints on important issues, but not all at the same time, so that not a single voice can actually be heard or understood. Lately the voices are increasingly more strident, the tone is less civil, and the words are uglier. This election season may have ramped up the noise and rudeness, but the underlying phenomenon is a reflection of an insidious, rather than an abrupt change in our society. What has happened to respectful discourse and debate?

Today’s teens and young adults have grown up in a digital world where they are continually interrupted by media on their devices, and all of us adults have had to keep up with this reality, but at what cost? A recent study found that the average human attention span has decreased from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. The widely publicized Microsoft-sponsored research, published in 2015, surveyed 2,000 adults and monitored the brain activity of 100 others. The conclusions painted a grim picture of the impact of digital technology on attention spans across all age groups and genders. With an average attention span of 8 seconds, humans have taken a back seat to goldfish, which have an average attention span of 9 seconds.

We are constantly checking our devices. They ping and buzz continually. We tweet, post, and IM throughout the day and night, and we are aware of every message that pops up. These are all multiple interruptions when we are trying to read something or to compose a reply or to have a conversation with a friend. There’s no time to think. I’m not a Luddite decrying the modern world. As a physician and medical educator I am well aware of the boon to communications and learning provided by technological innovations, and as Dean and Chancellor of Ross I’m engaged in working with faculty and staff to bring more educational technology into our curriculum, to better serve our students and help them succeed.

Still, living with multiple interruptions in an era when we seem to have less time than ever before is having a profound effect on us and on our interactions with each other. The doctor-patient relationship is not immune. Doctors are in a hurry. They may not have enough time to sit down with patients, look them in the eyes, listen to their concerns and answer their questions. It makes it difficult on the patient to tell his or her story. “I got up, I felt faint,” the patient says. The doctor has constraints on his or her time, stares at his computer screen rather than the patient and has no time to listen patiently or have a discourse, so the doctor interrupts. “Did you feel dizzy or did you feel that the room was spinning?” the doctor asks, trying to get to the cause of the symptom quickly. The meeting may be short and the patient may walk away in a state of confusion.

We recognize the critical importance of teaching future physicians how to talk to patients. One of the biggest changes in medical education in the last two decades has been the introduction of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE®) Step 2 CS in 2004. This exam, which medical students must pass in order to become physicians, includes a component on Communication and Interpersonal Skills. Individuals who cannot sit down and make a connection with a patient will fail the exam. This seems like progress in recognizing the need to test future doctors on this skill. However there is disconnect between wanting to test on it and actually organizing physician practices so they do have the time to listen and talk to their patients.

How do we work on paying attention, listening patiently, and waiting respectfully for our turn to speak? How do we organize our work and incentives to allow for this? Are physicians of the future willing to get paid less but practice closer to their idea of how a physician should behave?

Let’s think about that.

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ACADEMICS: RUSM Chairman of Medicine Publishes Editorial in Journal

July 12, 2016

Vijay Rajput, MD, professor and chairman of medicine
Vijay Rajput, MD (right), Professor and Chairman of Medicine at RUSM

Dr. Vijay Rajput, Professor and Chairman of Medicine at Ross University School of Medicine, has published an editorial in the current issue of the Indian Journal of Medical Specialties.

The article—titled Subtraction: Critical skills for clinician at bedside—begins with a quote from Lao Tzu: "To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, subtract things every day."

Below is an excerpt from the article:

“During residency training, physicians come across many diagnostic, communication, and/or administrative challenges in clinical care,” Rajput writes. “Both the teacher and learner can learn a lot from these challenges with patient care and the hospital system. Internship and residency are the important formative times in their professional education. This is the time in which residents get experiential learning while taking care of patients under the supervision of their attending, as well as understand the balance between autonomy and supervision.”

Download the article here.

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THE CLINICAL YEARS: The Top 7 Skills Clinical Students Need to Succeed

February 04, 2016

Vijay Rajput, MD, professor and chairman of medicineDean and Chancellor Joseph A. Flaherty, MD
In a follow up to a popular blog Dean and Chancellor Joseph A. Flaherty, MD (left) chatted recently with Vijay Rajput, MD (right), Professor and Chairman of Medicine and Medical Director, Office for Student Professional Development, about tips to help students make the most of their medical school experience.

In our recent blog, The Top Seven Survival Skills Medical Students Need to Succeed, we focused on the Foundations of Medicine portion of the program.

But you'll need different strategies for success during the clinical years. So Dean Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, sat down with Vijay Rajput, MD, Chairman of Medicine and Medical Director for the Office for Student and Professional Development, to compile some tips to help you make the most of your clerkships.

Check out the tips below.

FLAHERTY: It’s important in the clinical years to learn to ask for and receive feedback, and accept it without being defensive. Use it and learn from it. It’s a really good trait and it doesn’t come naturally.

RAJPUT: Ask, “How am I doing?” “Are there things I should be doing differently?” Get regular feedback on your performance.

RAJPUT: You must continue to learn from your patients. Read about the diseases you see in your clerkships. Study more about them when you have down time during your calls and in between rounds. Go to your clinical conference, morning reports, and grand rounds.

FLAHERTY: Learn how to handle the fear of failure and how to cope with poor performance. These things will happen throughout your practice of medicine. Some days won’t be so good. You have to convert your thinking from competition to success. Understand that your learning and knowledge is to prepare yourself to become a good doctor, not to be competitive with other students.

RAJPUT: Dress and act professionally. If the pilot on your plane showed up in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, you’d think twice. When you’re a doctor, think of yourself as a pilot. Do you tip the pilot? Do your job well and don’t expect rewards. Medicine is a high-level profession. Always take the high road. Even minor lapses in judgment can be detrimental to your career. Be aware of your image both inside and outside of the work environment.

FLAHERTY: Make the lives of your resident and attending easier. But do it without drawing attention to yourself. Be extra considerate. In clinical clerkships you have to try harder and go the extra mile for the people who are going to evaluate you.

RAJPUT: Make your resident and attending look good. Do more than you have to in order to make the patients feel more comfortable. Open the milk carton for an elderly patient when you are with your patient for clinical care.

RAJPUT: Understand that modern medicine is teamwork. Be a team player. You can’t practice medicine alone. In a clinic or on the floor, meet and greet everyone, and introduce yourself. Allow people to take credit for the work of the team. Use the word “we” rather than “I” when managing a patient with a team of residents and interns.

FLAHERTY: Make your first priority matching into any accredited residency program in the US.

RAJPUT: Have realistic expectations.

FLAHERTY: What counts are your grades and your track record. There are ways of predicting what specialty you can match into based on your USMLE® Step scores, and you have to take those predictions seriously. It’s crucial that you obtain a match on your first attempt. Every year that passes will make it more difficult.

RAJPUT: You should have a parallel plan, whether you’re going for orthopedics or surgery.

FLAHERTY: Some students have a go-for-broke attitude; the only type of doctor they want to be is a neurosurgeon, and if they can’t be that they’d rather be an accountant. We are obligated to encourage students to match into any residency. Apply for OB-GYN and also apply for family medicine, in only those family medicine programs that will train you in OB-GYN. Make sure you match. Period.

To recap, here are the top seven skills medical students need to succeed in the clinical years:

  1. Ask for and receive feedback.
  2. Continue to learn from your patients.
  3. Learn how to handle the fear of failure and how to cope with poor performance.
  4. Dress and act professionally.
  5. Make the lives of your resident and attending easier.
  6. Be a team player.
  7. Make your first priority matching into any accredited residency program in the US.

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RESIDENCY: Article in Top Medical Journal Concludes Residency Squeeze Is Unlikely

January 21, 2016

Sommerhalder and Veatch, RUSM alumni
Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, dean and chancellor of Ross University School of Medicine, shares his views on a recent New England Journal of Medicine article that questions the idea of a residency cliff.

This blog entry was written by Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, dean and chancellor of Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM). It is in response to a November article from the New England Journal of Medicine, titled "Why a GME Squeeze Is Unlikely."

Fitzhugh Mullan, MD, writes in the November 4, 2015 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine that, assuming the continuation of current trends in both US medical school growth and residency growth, a decade from now the number of first-year residency positions (34,000) will still outnumber the number of job-seeking US medical school graduates (29,500) by about 4,500. With graduate supply growing at a rate of 2.4% annually, and residency positions (or graduate medical education) growing at a slightly slower rate of 1.66%, the gap is definitely narrowing.

But it’s not a residency squeeze, as many observers believe. And there certainly is no need to fear a residency cliff.  

RUSM Graduates Positioned to Claim Open Residency Spots

I expect that as this slow tightening occurs, graduates of RUSM will continue to claim a significant number of positions in the Match – competing not only for the surplus of positions unfilled by US medical school graduates, but for every available position. One reason is our track record: residency program directors know RUSM and have seen how well our graduates perform. In the most recent match, over 800 RUSM graduates earned US residency positions, a record number for our institution*, and achieved an 88% first-attempt residency match rate*. We also saw more than 35 RUSM graduates be named chief resident of their program this fall.

But there are other factors that help prepare our graduates to succeed in The MATCHSM. One is that we prepare them well—not just academically, but for the process of applying to and interviewing with residency programs. This has been a significant focus for our team and we believe it is having a positive impact on our graduates’ competitiveness in the match.

The Real Reason Residency Programs Exist

In “Why a GME Squeeze Is Unlikely,” Dr. Mullan makes a very important point not only about the supply of graduate medical education positions, but about the overall purpose of GME. Residency programs don’t exist to provide each medical school graduate with a pathway into the career of their choice. Rather, they exist to serve the healthcare needs of the country.

Thus, according to Dr. Mullan—and I concur with him—the gap between the number of graduates and number of positions is actually a healthy one. It compels our graduates, and those advising them, to have realistic expectations about what specialty they want to pursue, and encourages a healthy distribution of positions into areas of need, such as family medicine.

RUSM and many regional/community-based schools are responding to this challenge by supplying a significant number of primary care doctors who also later practice in underserved community areas. I am proud that at RUSM we are striking a healthy balance on this front: preparing our brightest and highest-performing graduates to choose any path they wish, while at the same time supplying the US healthcare system with an annual influx of primary care physicians to serve a critical need.

*Institutionally reported data. See hyperlinks for more information.


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VIEWPOINT: The Top 7 Survival Skills Medical Students Need to Succeed

January 04, 2016

Dean and Chancellor Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, chats with Vijay Rajput, MD, Professor and Chairman of Medicine and Medical Director, Office for Student Professional Development. Check out their top seven survival skills for medical school below.

Vijay Rajput, MD, professor and chairman of medicineDean and Chancellor Joseph A. Flaherty, MD
Dean and Chancellor Joseph A. Flaherty, MD (left) chatted recently with Vijay Rajput, MD (right), Professor and Chairman of Medicine and Medical Director, Office for Student Professional Development, about tips to help students make the most of their medical school experience.

What skills do students need in order to do well in medical school, particularly during the basic sciences part of the program? This is a question that prospective and current students may ask as they ponder whether they have what it takes to succeed on the arduous journey to becoming a physician. I had a conversation on this topic recently with Dr. Vijay Rajput. Here are some excerpts from that discussion:

FLAHERTY: There are different types of skills; life skills, coping skills, generic skills, skills you can learn and some that are relatively fixed that can be improved on. To get through medical school students need to build and maintain social networks and to have two strong support systems –one is family and the other consists of mentors, colleagues, friends and acquaintances. It’s good to assess who’s in your network. Who do you call if, hypothetically, you need $10 or if you have a problem with a relationship?

RAJPUT: People in their twenties need to understand the value of family ties. They need to phone home, go home, and get recharged by those who have seen them succeed in the past and believe in their future. On the Dominica campus students should not be so focused on their studies that they postpone having a social life. They should be open to the possibility of beginning a relationship and not be held back by the fear that their studies will suffer. 

Learn the right survival skills for medical schoolFLAHERTY: Students need to develop study habits that work for them. Some learn by listening, some are visual, some take notes, and some learn by telling others.

RAJPUT: They need to create individualized learning methods to achieve standardized optimal outcomes. They should study to learn, not to memorize.

FLAHERTY: Time management is important. You can’t binge-study and make it work. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. There are limited effects to all-nighters. Maybe in high school or college you could do it, but not in medical school. There’s too much to learn and too much knowledge to integrate. Pace yourself.

RAJPUT: There’s no point studying 12 to 14 hours, because your brain cannot take it. Ideally, the number of hours you study should equal the number of hours you sleep. Your brain is like a computer. Only when you sleep does the information you studied get stored on the hard drive of the brain. Don’t deprive yourself of sleep.

FLAHERTY: You have to get enough sleep. Only when you get to stage-4 sleep can you store memory. Know your cycles. And find out where you study best. Some like to be in study rooms with others, some like to be in their own room. Make sure the significant part of your study time is by yourself. You can have a study group for a couple of hours to review something, and that can enhance your learning.

RAJPUT: Showing up and being on time, whether it’s going to class or to the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) are key. Some students say they just don’t learn in the classroom. At least try it. See if it works. And when you get an invitation to CTL, you show up. Then you work hard. There’s no excuse, no choice, no alternative – in medical school you have to work hard. That does not mean you jeopardize the balance between your work and social life.

FLAHERTY: Emotional states can enhance or depress learning. Beware: certain emotional, cognitive states will depress learning. Reducing stress can help. What can you do to reduce your stress level? Call a friend, talk to people, log on to Facebook, exercise, go to the gym, listen to music – whatever works. It helps to stay healthy, and good nutrition is critical.

RAJPUT: Nutritious comfort food can also play a big role.

To recap, here are the top seven survival skills medical students need to succeed:

  1. Build and maintain social networks.
  2. Develop study habits that work for you.
  3. Learn to manage your time.
  4. Get enough sleep.
  5. Show up and be on time.
  6. Work hard.
  7. Learn to reduce stress.

Note from Dean Flaherty: An additional set of skills is needed in the clinical years of the medical school program. Dr. Rajput and I will have a conversation about that topic in an upcoming blog.

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LOOKING BACK: End-of-Year Message from Dean Flaherty 2015

December 18, 2015

Sommerhalder and Veatch, RUSM alumni
Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, dean and chancellor of Ross University School of Medicine

As the year 2015 comes to a close my overarching thought is a resounding thank you to every one of our Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) students, colleagues, faculty, administrators and sister schools for helping us through what might otherwise have been a most difficult year, because of Tropical Storm Erika in Dominica, and its aftermath, in August. The sense of mission and shared values was never more evident. With it came that strong feeling of kinship with all of us in Miramar, in Dominica, New Jersey and Chicago. I am particularly grateful to the Dominica colleagues and faculty who went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that classes began as scheduled.

A Look Back at Academic Success and Support

In other areas it was also a very successful year, for which I want to thank all of our dedicated colleagues. As of 2017, one hundred percent of all RUSM clinical students are now in tracks and are on schedule to complete their entire third year of medical school within 48 weeks. We have made dramatic improvement in reducing the attrition of our students and that means more and more of them will achieve their dream of becoming a physician. We are giving a pronounced look to at-risk students to see what resources they need to succeed. This support includes an increase in the use of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL), the implementation of a strong mandatory mentoring program, and required targeted remediation for students whose scores are unsatisfactory in particular disciplines. On a positive note we continue to see strong student outcomes, thanks to continued collaboration among colleagues in the Basic Sciences and Clinical programs.

New Student Center Opens, Becomes Hub for Student Community

One of the year’s highlights was the official opening of the new Student Center on the Dominica campus on May 14, marking a significant milestone in the campus’s development. The 50,000 square-foot facility represents an investment of $18 million. It is the largest building on campus and has quickly become the hub for the RUSM community as well as a welcoming facility for visitors. It houses the library, student study space, multipurpose rooms, the Center for Teaching and Learning, food facilities, including a large dining area and space for three vendors, space for a campus store and offices for the departments of Student Affairs and Student Services.

RUSM Students Volunteer to Support US Navy Medical Mission

Another highlight of 2015 was the opportunity for about 900 RUSM students to volunteer to join medical personnel from the US Navy’s hospital ship USNS COMFORT to provide health services to people in Dominica while the ship was docked there between July 28 and Aug. 6. The students were able to get early clinical exposure alongside practicing physicians, and exposure to patients in an underserved healthcare setting. These experiences will contribute to the continued development of important traits good physicians need, including empathy and a sense of service.

Making Clinicals Even More Productive for Our Students

I am very grateful to the colleagues in our clinical team for the careful reviews they have conducted at many clinical sites, and the feedback they have provided to the institutions to make them most productive for our students. They have outlined a week-by-week didactic series in each of the clinical clerkships. This is a tremendous achievement, and one that will greatly benefit our students.

A Record-Setting Year for Residencies

The most exciting news of the year is that RUSM has set another record in the number of residency appointments earned by our graduates, with 830 in 2015, the highest number in our school’s history, even though the last three years, from 2012 to 2014, have all been record-setters for us. This phenomenal trend of continually increasing numbers of successful RUSM graduates is what we work so hard to achieve. We look towards 2016 to face new challenges, ever vigilant for new opportunities.

I wish you all a good holiday season and a very happy New Year.

Tags: Leadership , Clinical Program , Student Services , Academics , USMLE , Residency

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IN THE MEDIA: Dean Flaherty on How RUSM Can Help with the Physician Shortage

December 14, 2015


We select students with the most grit, determination and promise and give them the opportunity to become the doctors that America so badly needs: high-quality caregivers who pass the same board exams and meet the same criteria for residency and licensure as U.S. medical students.

Excerpted from "International med schools filling a need for U.S. physicians," published in the 12/5/15 Miami Herald

This month, our own Dean and Chancellor, Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, co-wrote an opinion piece for the Miami Herald about a topic important to both healthcare providers and the patients they serve—an impending physician shortage, long predicted by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).

Long story short: Demand for physicians continues to grow faster than supply, according to the AAMC. The organization predicts that it could reach a boiling point in 2025, by which time demand will exceed supply by between 46,000 and 90,000 physicians.

Co-written by Heidi Chumley, MD—Executive Dean of American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC)—the article posits that international medical schools like AUC and Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) are playing a critical role in filling this shortfall.

Check out the Miami Herald piece here to find out how, and join the discussion below or on our Facebook page.


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VIEWPOINT: Why Some Students Say They Don't Want to Read Textbooks

December 01, 2015

Iriana Hammell named assistant dean for clinical sciences
Iriana Hammel, MD, FACP, AGSF, assistant dean for clinical sciences

This blog post was written by Iriana Hammel, MD, FACP, AGSF, assistant dean for clinical sciences at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM).

More and more frequently, students send me email messages complaining about the fact that they have been given reading assignments. Many of them are cringing at the thought of picking up an actual book and reading the required pages, and they are even resistant to the idea of reading the same chapter in an online format. Why bother, they say, when it is much easier to do a search of Up-to-date or read the topic in the Wikipedia page that pops up in a quick search on their iPhone®? Can’t we just give them handouts with short bullet points?

In an era of incredible expansion of readily available internet resources that are at your fingertips, should we still be asking our students to read actual chapters of textbooks? What happened to the independent study that the adult learner used to have to do in order to navigate through the years of undergraduate education? Are the books that we, the older generations of physicians, used to study from now relics that belong in a museum?

I don’t think it’s time for that yet. Those textbooks give us a point of reference that cannot be found in the same measure in the multitude of online sources out there. Our students are not at a stage in their training where they can make informed decisions about which sources are to be trusted and which ones are not. Whether students tell you they extracted an inaccurate piece of information from Dr. Jones’s PowerPoint® presentation or from an obscure internet source, I suspect your answer will be, “Did you read the chapter in Harrison about this condition?” That is because Harrison/ Nelson/Sloane/ Beckman (or whichever the leading textbook in your specialty may be) is the trusted source you have been depending on since you started medical school and that you have continued to rely on and refer students to since you have been an educator. This is because the content is not only very comprehensive, but is, most importantly, reliable.

As physicians and educators, we still see the value of training young minds with the help of our most trusted resources in medicine. We think that the best way to learn is to dive deeply into the topic and read until you understand it, rather than memorize bullet points about it. It is good for students to read a few pages about congestive heart failure (CHF) in the evening, after seeing a patient with CHF in the hospital that morning. It is also critical for students to have read and learned something about CHF before encountering the patient.

“If I skip the reading assignments, is it still possible for me to pass the rotation?” a student asked me recently. The student said that, “It’s hard to read the textbook. It’s so dry, and unrelated.” I am sympathetic but unmoved. My reply to this student was, “Even though I agree that it is ideal to learn the information after seeing a patient with a certain condition, we need to ensure that you have a solid knowledge base going into your core clerkships. The only way to attain a broad base of knowledge is by reading extensively. I can see your point of view, but you will not be able to pass the rotation without completing the reading assignments.”

We need to bring back the passion for reading and learning that motivated us to read and learn, to become the best physicians that we could be and to better help our patients.

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LEADERSHIP: Dr. Stanley White Named Sr. Associate Dean, Dominica Campus

November 05, 2015

Stanley White has been named senior associate dean, Dominica campus, for RUSM
Stanley White, PhD, has been appointed senior associate dean, Dominica campus, for Ross University School of Medicine.

Dr. Stanley White has been appointed to the position of Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM) Senior Associate Dean, Dominica Campus. He has served as interim dean since the end of last year. Dr. White joined RUSM in 2010 as a professor of physiology, and became associate dean, Center for Teaching and Learning, in 2013.

Dr. White was awarded a PhD by the University of Manchester, UK in 1986. His research focused on renal anion transport. Subsequently he was awarded a prestigious Beit Memorial Fellowship, which he held in the Department of Cellular & Molecular Physiology at Yale University Medical School. From 1992, in the UK he was supported by a Medical Research Council Senior Fellowship. He then became a senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield where he did research into the cellular and molecular mechanisms of renal potassium secretion. He also taught medical and dental students in all areas of human physiology. At Sheffield, he led a number of innovative programs in undergraduate medical and dental blended learning approaches and was a member of several university committees pertaining to biomedical education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In 2002 he joined the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds, UK, where he continued his research and teaching.

In the external educational arena, Dr. White has been an external examiner at various universities for several biomedical degree programs and numerous PhD and MD theses. He has acted as a consultant for innovative laboratory teaching in biological sciences courses for the Open University, and was joint coordinator of the annual Wellcome Trust “Molecular Physiology” Practical Workshop from 1999 to 2006. During that time he also served as a scientific panel member of Kidney Research UK, the largest charity in the UK, focusing on basic science and clinical research approaches to kidney disease.

Among his notable accomplishments, Dr. White has reviewed numerous grant applications for external funding providers including MRC, Wellcome Trust and the National Institutes of Health, as well as various medical charities. From 2002 to 2008, Dr. White was associate editor for the international journal Nephron Physiology. He has published numerous papers in internationally peer-reviewed journals as well as articles and book chapters. Dr. White has served on the Council, and as a trustee of the Physiological Society as well as being a member of the society’s Education Sub Committee. He is a member of the Physiological Society, the American Physiological Society and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.

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DEAN'S BLOG: How We Can Help Stressed-Out Students

October 07, 2015


By Joseph A. Flaherty, MD
Dean and Chancellor, RUSM

Medical school is hard. It’s no wonder that many students feel stressed, especially during exam time or when interviewing for the residency match while completing their clinical rotations. Unfortunately for some students with certain psychosocial and genetic characteristics, there is a higher risk of experiencing a clinical depression and/or turning to alcohol and other substances in order to cope. What can we do to help our students?

There has been copious research on the subject of medical students, physicians, and alcohol-related problems. Together with several co-authors, I have also contributed to this body of scientific literature over the years. What we looked at is: what gets people depressed, who gets depressed, and who has a problem with drinking, in the general population and in medical school and residency.

What we found was that historically, there has been a striking difference between the genders; men have had a four-times higher drinking rate while women have had a two-times higher suicide rate. This gender difference was confounding and led to all kinds of biological, psychological and sociological research to try to shed some light on what’s going on.

We can say with certainty that there are triggers for serious depression, like sleep deprivation, jet lag, or a death in the family. To the extent that life events change and biological rhythms are disrupted and altered, those people who are vulnerable by genetic predisposition may experience such a situation as a trigger.

But, we found that while men and women start medical school with the societal rates for alcohol abuse, six years later the women students’ alcohol-abuse rates had risen dramatically and were equal to those of the men. By-and-large, women physicians adopted more “male” coping behavior, like drinking. This is cause for concern.

Therefore, being able to cope with stress is very important in preventing depression and alcoholism. The best coping mechanisms are active – doing something, like talking to other people, and not keeping feelings to yourself. The best prevention is to have a good support system or at least one close friend with whom to share your life. Other helpful activities are pursuing hobbies and getting involved with social causes. Maintaining good nutrition is also very important.

I’m pleased that at Ross University School of Medicine we have very good resources and options for people who show signs of serious depression or substance abuse. For all of the many challenges in life facing our students, we have a health center on campus and a counseling center which is an independent clinical entity addressing the on-going and emergent mental health needs of students, family members, spouses, partners and significant others. The ASPIRE Student Assistance Program, for clinical students and their families is a free and confidential service that provides support through telephonic counseling or referrals to local providers.  It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Additionally, students needing help with academic challenges may avail themselves of an array of services through the Center for Teaching and Learning.

We also have more than 50 student clubs and organizations at the school, including those devoted to medical specialties, sports, humanitarian efforts, nationalities, cultural interests, and so much more. For example, there is a Canadian Students club and a Vegetarian Students club. For students seeking to participate in extra-curricular activities that engage them, and offer camaraderie and friendship with peers, they will find a group that is right for them. This may be the best preventive measure of all. Not only is the activity proven to be helpful, but if signs of trouble should arise, fellow students in the group may suggest that a person check out a talk at the counseling center, or another resource that will help.




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DEAN’S VIEWPOINT: How to Reverse the Declining Number of African-American Men in Medical School

September 28, 2015

RUSM Dean Joseph A. Flaherty, MD
Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, Dean and Chancellor of Ross University School of Medicine

A recent report from the Association of American Medical Colleges points out that since 1978, while the number of African-American men graduating from college has gone up, the number going on to medical school has dropped. This contradiction should serve as a wake-up call to educators and leaders across the country. Medical schools in particular need to look closely at what may be keeping away those African-American students who might otherwise aspire to become physicians.

An editorial co-authored by Joseph Flaherty, MD and Jorge Girotti, PhD—published in the Washington Post—seeks to address this issue. Flaherty, dean and chancellor of Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM), has had an interest in this issue since his days at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, where he served as dean prior to joining RUSM.

“This is an issue we feel very strongly about at RUSM. Opportunity is at the core of our mission, and we should ensure that that opportunity extends far and wide to give as many deserving and qualified students a chance as possible,” said Flaherty.

The 2014-15 RUSM student body is about 25 percent Asian, 11 percent black or African-American, and 9 percent Hispanic. For African-American men, the subject of the new AAMC report, RUSM enrolls at nearly double the level of U.S. schools on average: In the 2014-15 academic year, 4.8 percent of our enrollees were black males, compared to 2.5 percent in the AAMC statistics for U.S. schools.

“That level carries through to graduation,” said Flaherty, pointing out that in the last five years, RUSM’s 138 African-American male graduates have comprised about 5% of all RUSM graduates. Said Flaherty: “Outcomes like this show us all the way to get more African-American male physicians – welcome them as students and give them a fair opportunity to show they have what it takes to become physicians.”

Read the whole editorial here.

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CAREER ADVICE: Which Medical Specialty Makes Your Heart Twitch?

August 25, 2015

Choosing a Career in Medicine

This blog entry was written by Vijay Rajput, MD, FACP, SFHM, Professor and Chair of Medicine at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM). Dr. Rajput is also the Medical Director for the Office of Student and Professional Development at RUSM.

Medicine is a career, not a job. The difference is that in a career you invest yourself, develop professionally, become more mature, and create a legacy. In a job, you can become the best burger-flipper, for example, with practice, but it’s still not a career.

Nevertheless, a physician, too, needs to get up every morning and go to work, and enjoy the work in which he or she is engaged. Medical students should be made aware of the wide range of options from which they may choose in pursuing their careers, and it is incumbent on medical educators to guide them through the process.

The basic question that needs to be answered by the student is what do you enjoy? Which medical specialty makes your heart start twitching? More specifically: 

  • Do you enjoy the cognitive aspects of analyzing a problem, or do you like to use psycho-motor skills and work with your hands? Do you enjoy both types of work?
  • What type of patient do you prefer to work with, children, adults, pregnant women?
  • What type of environment makes you more comfortable – a hospital operating room, emergency room, an outpatient office, a lab?
  • Do you enjoy taking care of an acute rather than a chronic problem? Do you prefer to manage a crisis rather than a chronic condition?
  • Do you prefer to get immediate satisfaction, or do you not mind getting delayed gratification?

Clearly, a person who likes to use psycho-motor skills in an acute situation, where immediate gratification is possible, is a person who would enjoy being a surgeon. A person who is comfortable in an office setting, and does not require immediate gratification, may be suited to family medicine or pediatrics. While it may seem obvious, many medical students do not necessarily ask themselves these questions to determine what specialty they wish to pursue. Additionally, an individual’s personality plays a role. If you are taciturn and reserved by nature, and can come across as grumpy, maybe pediatrics is not for you. On the other hand, if you are naturally cheerful, pleasant and very patient, you should consider a career as a pediatrician or a family medicine doctor.

Of course there is also the consideration of how difficult it may be to obtain a residency match in any area, and how the student’s academic record and United States Medical Licensing Examination® Step scores measure up. Students should aim high, but also have realistic expectations.

Now here are some don’ts when considering a career in medicine: 

  • Don’t choose a specialty based on a charismatic, exciting faculty member in that field. You need to talk to many people within that specialty to build up a comprehensive picture of what it’s really like.
  • Don’t try to navigate the market and choose a field because it seems to be in demand. Markets can swing every few years, and you might find yourself in a career you don’t enjoy, and earning less money than you anticipated.
  • Don’t neglect the opportunities within opportunities. For example, if you like the area of infectious diseases, check out the possibility of working in epidemiology at the Centers for Disease Control or the Department of Health.
  • Don’t rush your decision. Sometimes it just takes time to know what your passion really is and what you enjoy. There’s nothing wrong with that.

To achieve a rewarding career we need to do more than balance work and life. It’s not a balancing act it’s a juggling act, with the third component being integrity.

I advise medical students to follow these guidelines as they carefully consider what type of physician they wish to be and what kind of life they want to live.


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DEAN’S BLOG: Medical Schools Like RUSM Are Part of the Solution to This US Problem

July 20, 2015

Ross University Dean Joseph A. Flaherty

This post was written by Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, dean and chancellor of Ross University School of Medicine.

An article in The Hill, a leading U.S. publication covering politics, suggests that international medical schools are a critical part of alleviating the looming doctor shortage. Entitled “Discrimination Against Foreign Medical Schools is Bad for Your Health,” it references the prediction that by 2025, the country will be short as many as 90,000 doctors, and points out that the solution to this problem will not come from schools located on American soil alone:

❝[T]here are not enough medical schools in the United States to train an adequate number of physicians needed to provide medical care.  Many talented and hard working Americans who have the calling to go into medicine simply cannot get accepted into medical schools in their own country. To become doctors, those individuals have to go abroad. While there are some medical schools outside the United States that are sub-standard, there are many schools that do a very good job of educating hopeful American doctors.❞

It goes on to say that medical schools “in places like Dominica” do “a great job of preparing their students to practice in the United States.” It also notes the success some schools outside the U.S. have in “educating minorities to become doctors,” an area where “American medical schools are failing miserably.” 

It is past time for leading international medical schools like RUSM to get their due for the contributions we make to the U.S. healthcare system. At RUSM we enroll talented and committed individuals from diverse backgrounds and provide them with a rigorous education. And we get results: a 97% first-time pass rate on Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Exam in 2014, and more than 800 graduates earning residencies this year. A large number of this year’s graduates will enter primary care, practice in high-need areas, or both. We are proud to play our part in helping the U.S. meet its need for physicians.

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VIEWPOINT: Teaching Medical Students to be Humanistic Physicians

May 18, 2015

This blog entry was written by Vijay Rajput, MD, FACP, SFHM, Professor and Chair of Medicine at Ross University School of Medicine. Dr. Rajput is also the Medical Director for the Office of Student and Professional Development at RUSM.

In medical schools throughout the world, we teach our students so much science, but there are some factors that we may not be teaching very well. The challenge for a doctor is to do more than just apply information from an evidence-based journal. The challenge is to be a humanistic physician who treats a patient not just as a disease, but as a human being. There is a major difference between treating patients and caring for patients.

Let me give you a startling, but true, example. It is the case of a surgery resident on a surgery rotation who changed the dressing on a leg wound without realizing that the patient was already dead.

A patient can tell within 30 seconds whether a physician cares about him or her. This is where the nonverbal communication is paramount. Obviously, you have to look at the person, and then listen carefully. If the resident in the example above had looked at the patient, and not just at the leg, and had asked, “how do you feel?” it would have been clear that he was not responsive, not breathing, not alive.

How Can Physicians Earn Patients' Trust?

The role of the physician in society has changed. There has been an erosion of trust. What will it take to earn the trust of patients again? Can we, in medical education, provide the training in compassionate communication, professionalism, and the art of observation? My way of looking at it is that a person needs some basic substrate of humanism that has been developed while growing up. But just nature is not enough and just nurture is not enough. I believe that we can incorporate into the four years of medical school the development of a humanistic approach in patient care and teaching.

I am a native of India, where I earned my medical degree. When I immigrated to the U.S., I quickly discovered that while my English skills were quite good, there were many idioms, fine nuances of communication and cultural references whose meaning I did not comprehend, and this presented a problem in understanding my patients. The good news is that it compelled me to pay very close attention to my interactions with them and to make sure that we understood each other correctly. I will never forget the encounter with my first patient in the U.S. When he told me he had passed out the night before I was shocked. In India this phrase means that the person has died. Clearly, this patient was alive, so I had to ask more questions to find out what was going on.

Seeing Your Patients as People Is Paramount

Over the years I have learned from my students, residents and mentors, what characteristics are integral to becoming a humanistic physician and teacher: listening and counseling with empathy, being humble but confident, and seeing a patient’s illness in the context of the patient’s life.

In other words, to be a humanistic physician, you have to open your mind and heart to the people around you.

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COMMENTARY: In Chicago Tribune, RUSM Dean Writes About Importance of Vaccinations

February 06, 2015

Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, Dean and Chancellor at Ross University School of Medicine, has authored a guest commentary for the Chicago Tribune on the risks to public health posed by parents who choose not to have their children vaccinated for diseases like measles. “While many individuals explore medically sound and useful sites on the Internet, others get bounced to sources of misinformation. It is in this murky "nether net" that disease deniers lurk and anti-vaccination campaigns arise,” he writes.

Dr. Flaherty poses an important question that has sparked debate around the country: “Can a line be drawn between when individuals can make personal medical decisions and when the state needs to intervene?”

Read the full story.

Want to learn more about Dean Flaherty? Check out a profile of the dean here and find out what brought him to RUSM—and how the school has advanced under his leadership.

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DEAN'S VIEWPOINT: Examining the Physician-Patient Relationship and New Styles of Interaction

October 22, 2014

By Joseph A. Flaherty, MD
Dean and Chancellor, Ross University School of Medicine

The style of interaction between a physician and his or her patient has been evolving over time, but like many aspects of our lives, the pace of change has increased tremendously in the digital age. The three classic models of the doctor-patient relationship were described in 1956 by Thomas S. Szasz, MD and Marc H. Hollender, MD.

  • In one style, the doctor is the authority figure, and the patient passively submits.
  • In the second, the doctor is more of a guide, with whom the patient cooperates.
  • The third style involves mutual participation with the doctor listening to the patient’s input. Medicine is moving toward this style, but all patients are different.

Doctors in the past were often the most educated people in their communities. But that’s no longer the case, and thus the authoritarian style doesn’t always work that well. Despite the desire for an egalitarian relationship, some people don’t want it in practice. They want to be told, “This is what you have.” They don’t want to hear, “I don’t know what caused your fainting spells.” 

The patient also wants to be heard. We have to encourage doctors to become good listeners, and to know that there is much they can learn from their patients. I did. 

There is a new style of physician-patient relationship today that is really the Internet version of what the French, in the 19th century, called Le Malade Au Petit Papier  The Malady of the Little Piece of Paper. That’s when patients came to a doctor’s visit with notes about what they think the problem is, based on what they might have heard from others or what they imagined. In the modern age, people may go online and research their symptoms and come up with their own diagnoses that they offer to their physicians. Or, they may see a prescription drug advertised on TV and feel that it would right for them, so they ask the physician for it, thereby dictating their treatment. We should recognize that people are striving for a laudable goal – learning how their bodies work in health and disease. As physicians, we need to take time to hear their thoughts. 

Every physician must find a style that he or she is comfortable with in relating to patients, and perhaps adapting it to the needs of different patients. We also need to be sensitive to what patients want in this relationship. Some may want us to be their friend which could reduce our effectiveness in being their doctor. When I was a young resident I characteristically introduced myself to patients as “Joe Flaherty” rather than “Dr. Flaherty.” I found most patients were uncomfortable with that and preferred Dr. Flaherty. I realized I was introducing my own intellectualized desire for egalitarianism rather than considering each patient’s unique needs.  

Maybe, when it comes to this most important relationship, one style does not fit all. 

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Dr. Weaver delivers inspirational talk at American Medical Association Annual Meeting

September 11, 2014

Why Does Medicine Still Inspire? is the title of a talk delivered by Wm. Lynn Weaver, MD, FACS, Ross University School of Medicine’s (RUSM) Senior Associate Dean, Dominica Campus, at the American Medical Association’s Annual Meeting on June 6, 2014, in Chicago.

According to the AMA website, "AMA’s Annual Meeting unites physicians to share their wisdom and insights into what has inspired them throughout their career, impactful moments with patients and their role of physician leadership in furthering health care."

Dr. Weaver related that, "What I want to share with you is not a great success story, not a miracle of modern medicine and technology, and not a miracle of divine intervention. In fact when this story first happened, I felt that I had failed."

To view a video of Dr. Weaver’s presentation, please click here.

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Education Summit: Integrating basic science into the clinical training of medical students

June 26, 2014

The educators who attended the Ross Med Education Summit, held in Miami June 11-12 were focused on the topic of how to better integrate basic science into clinical training.  Last February a Summit took place in Dominica to discuss improving the integration of clinical knowledge into the basic sciences’ curriculum. At both events, clinical clerkship directors, clerkship chairs and program directors from RUSM’s hospital affiliates around the country engaged in dialogue with RUSM’s department chairs, deans and faculty members from Dominica, where the basic science curriculum is taught. They explored ways to enhance the student learning environment and to increase opportunities for student success.


“We are one team and one school, but that doesn’t mean that we are of one opinion, and that’s great, that’s how we work,” said Joseph A. Flaherty, MD, RUSM Dean and Chancellor. “There was a good dialogue during the presentations and the small group breakout sessions.”


The keynote speaker, Aaron McGuffin, MD, talked about the efforts to achieve such integration at his institution, Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine in West Virginia. “Teaching the same lectures without interdisciplinary collaboration is not integration,” he said. “Integration requires conversations that are uncomfortable.” What is needed is curriculum mapping, so that, as Dr. McGuffin put it, “Each lecture doesn’t start with, ‘I don’t know if you’ve had this before…’”


Alison Dobbie, MB, ChB, MRCGP, RUSM’s Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education, who organized the two Education Summits, said that one of the “good takeaways,” from the Miami Summit was the fact that the basic science chairs requested access to the Essential Patient Encounters that are used in the core clerkships, “to have that in their educational armory.” These materials were quickly provided to them.

Dr. Dobbie said that RUSM would be looking at doing a curriculum-mapping pilot project in one integrated module of the basic science curriculum.

(Photo caption: Dr. Aaron McGuffin and Dr. Alison Dobbie at the Education Summit.)



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