Ross University Blog

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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CLINICAL UPDATE: What's Coming Up for RUSM's Clinical Program?

August 07, 2015

RUSM clinical students in rotations

A number of Caribbean medical schools can claim a solid basic science program that prepares students to perform well on US licensing exams. That’s certainly important, but what about the clinical years? For students at Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM), their clinical training in the United States lasts longer than the time they spend in Dominica acquiring the basic science knowledge. Knowing that, and knowing the importance that a strong clinical education plays in making students competitive for residency, RUSM has made significant improvements to help ensure that their clinical experiences are more powerful, convenient, and engaging.

Read on to learn what’s coming up for our clinical students—and what’s already in place for those who are just about to wrap up the Foundations of Medicine (basic sciences) portion of their medical education.

An “Absolutely Fantastic” Clinical Experience for RUSM Students

RUSM clinical students using advanced techAside from our students, there may be no one more excited about the clinical strides we’ve made than Gary Belotzerkovsky, assistant dean for clinical student affairs.  

“The clinical program at RUSM is looking absolutely fantastic,” said Belotzerkovsky. “We focus on three key components of a RUSM student’s clinical experience—the educational quality of the clinical site, convenience for our clinical students, and support services. I’m excited to say that we’re delivering on all fronts.”

If you’re currently a RUSM clinical student (or are about to become one), odds are you’ve at least heard of Belotzerkovsky—though his role generally revolves around strategically evolving RUSM’s clinical program to meet the needs of RUSM students, he also takes the time to personally help individual students as they’re planning or scheduling rotations. In one notable instance, a student was having trouble scheduling elective rotations with a hospital. Belotzerkovsky hopped on the phone with the student and hospital—the issue was resolved that day.

“I love my job, and love working with our students,” Belotzerkovsky says. “As we continue evolving the clinical program here at RUSM, one goal is for us to help make sure that students don’t have any problems while scheduling clinicals. But if they do, they can count on their dedicated team of advisors here at RUSM to help guide them through the process.”


A Dedicated Support Team That Follows You Through Clinicals

That team of advisors that Belotzerkovsky is referring to is part of the Rely on Students Services (ROSS) Model, an institutional initiative that sets every RUSM clinical student up with a dedicated team of support staff:  a financial aid advisor, two clinical advisor(s), and other professionals who can support students during the clinical years.

“This team of advisors is with the student for the entirety of the last two years of medical school,” Belotzerkovsky says. “It’s our way of making sure that no matter where you are in the clinical program, you’ll have someone to help guide you every step of the way.”

Learn more about the ROSS Model here.

Academic Homes for Our Clinical Students: All Students Now on Tracked Rotations

Perhaps most exciting to Belotzerkovsky is that now, all incoming RUSM clinical students are automatically placed on one of our new “clinical tracks”—a term that refers to teaching hospitals, ones affiliated with RUSM, that are all clustered around the same geographical area. For example, RUSM’s New York clinical track is made up of St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, and New York Methodist Hospital. A clinical student entering his or her third year of medical school can complete all third-year core rotations at one of these hospitals.

Years ago, RUSM clinical students had to move around during their third and fourth years. Those days are past.

View the list of RUSM-affiliated hospitals here.

The benefit of completing all of your core rotations at just one site? Students not only can focus on their clinical training without having to worry about moving from location to location, but this also gives them the opportunity to establish long-lasting relationships with residents, program directors, and other colleagues at the site.

“It creates true continuity for a third-year clinical student—they complete all of their cores at one site, rather than shuttling around from hospital to hospital,” Belotzerkovsky says. “Plus, with a tracked site, it means the clinical students there have a centralized location for studying for their licensure exams and working with fellow students on preparing for USMLE Step 2 CS.”

Get more details about our tracked clinical rotations.

RUSM clinical students moving up

What’s Coming Up in RUSM’s Clinical Program?

Belotzerkovsky and his team are constantly making improvements to RUSM’s clinical program. For example, Belotzerkovsky and his team are continually working with hospitals to develop additional clinical tracks across the United States, with the goal of giving clinical students more regional options—and more locational convenience.Here’s a brief snapshot of what’s coming up in the near term.

  • New NJ/NY clinical track. RUSM has partnered with several hospitals in the New York/New Jersey area to create the BQNJ (Brooklyn-Queens-New Jersey) Track. This partnership provides additional opportunities for a significant number of RUSM students, with a 48-week tracked curriculum across the six core disciplines at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center for internal medicine, surgery and pediatrics, Hoboken University Medical Center for family medicine, and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital for OB/GYN and psychiatry. This track will be available in October 2015.
  • For students looking for a New York-only experience, RUSM is pleased to announce a full track program with several hospitals in the New York area. Referred to as the JFK Track, this partnership provides additional opportunities for a significant number of RUSM students with a 48-week tracked curriculum across the six core disciplines at South Nassau Communities Hospital for surgery, pediatrics, OB/GYN and family medicine and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital for internal medicine and psychiatry. This track also will be available in October 2015.
  • More convenience: Soon, thanks to an online clinical scheduling platform currently in development, third-year students will be able to log in to a sophisticated database to schedule their core rotations at RUSM clinical tracks. Fourth-year clinical students can also see what electives are available at RUSM affiliate sites using this system.
  • Additional elective sites: The clinical team continues to explore additional elective-only affiliate sites—primarily ones accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) that offer both residency and fellowship programs.

Tags: Clinical Program , Student Services

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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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Dr. Paula Wales on the launch of the ROSS Model: Rely On Student Services

June 17, 2014

Hello. I’m Dr. Paula Wales, Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs at Ross University School of Medicine, and I’m very pleased to announce the launch of the ROSS advisory model – ROSS as an acronym for Rely On Student Services. The purpose of this new clinical advisory model is to help ensure that students who are dispersed throughout the country keep connected, stay on track in terms of their clinical timelines, and receive the career and match advising they need to succeed.

In the new model there is a coordinated team of six advisors for each student. Every advisor has had training in functional areas, such as registrar, career development, and clinical advising. They have also had cross-training and additional training in skills like teambuilding and customer service. Each team also partners with a financial aid advisor in N.J., making for a wrap-around model of services.

When a student calls, he or she will be directed to a specific advisory team, based on alphabetical criteria. That way, the team and the student will get to know one another over time, fostering better understanding and resulting in better service, whether there are questions about the Match, Step scores, electives, letters of reference, personal statements, or anything else.

In addition, we are also extending the hours of service during which clinical students may phone their advisory team. The extended hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday.
We want our clinical students to know that they have a career advisory team standing by, ready to help them. The team will also be proactive, reaching out to each student every month, to check in and ask: how’s it going? Do you need any help?

Watch out for future blog posts where I’ll introduce you to some of the wonderful people on our ROSS clinical advisory teams.

Tags: Student Services

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