October 11, 1996

VUSM ranks first in student satisfaction

VUSM ranks first in student satisfaction

Students at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine are more pleased with their medical education than are students at the other 124 medical schools across the United States, according to a recent national survey.

This information comes from the Association of American Medical Colleges' 1995 Graduation Questionnaire – known as the GQ – given to all graduating medical students in the country. The results were presented as part of the VUSM Faculty Meeting on Oct. 7.

The question asked was "Overall, how satisfied are you with the quality of your medical education?"

And 83.2 percent of the 1995 VUSM graduates reported they were "very satisfied" with their medical education.

"Students talk all the time about how happy they are here," said Dr. Deborah C. German, Associate Dean of Students at VUSM. "I don't think it's any mystery.

"They feel they are important to this medical center and to the faculty and that the faculty wants to teach them. Students get a lot of attention from their student and faculty advisors and feel as though the administration is supportive and on their side," she said.

But this doesn't mean that students here are treated with kid gloves, she said.

"It's not pampering or babying. We have very high expectations of them, but we don't think there should be unnecessary obstacles to their meeting their goals. It's that sense, and the support that goes with it, that makes the students feel satisfied with their medical education," she said.

German said the medical school puts its students first.

In fact, the top two strengths of the medical school as indicated on the 1996 questionnaire are: supportive faculty and responsive, supportive members of the Dean's office.

The faculty, administration and office staff try to help students with problems, German said.

"I think this makes a difference. We try to remove the unnecessary obstacles so students can focus their efforts on doing the meaty work they need to do to achieve their goals."

"We put our students first just like the Vanderbilt Medical Group puts patients first. We put the students first with the expectation that they will put their studies and their patients first."

Aaron Styer, a third-year medical student who serves on the medical school's curriculum committee, said student satisfaction with VUSM begins on the first day of medical school.

"It starts from day one. You don't feel like a student. You feel like you are a physician in training. At the white coat ceremony, you feel like you are becoming part of a tradition stretching across the whole century. Students are made to feel like an integral part of this well-oiled machine."

Styer said as all medical schools undergo sweeping changes in curriculum to keep pace with the ever-changing health care environment in which they will be practicing, VUSM has realized the importance of incorporating students into making those changes.

"There are a lot of changes going on in medical schools and a lot of those changes at Vanderbilt are being initiated by students," Styer said. "This is not just a place to go to school. It's a place we've made our own.

"You appreciate things and you're more satisfied when you feel that you have some say in what goes on and you can take an active role in change," he said.

Styer said he feels like the administration is always receptive to students and their ideas.

"There is always someone there to listen and to give you feedback. That's pretty reassuring. No place is perfect."

The faculty is also top-notch.

"They are not your adversaries. They are there to get you through medical school and to help you learn as much as you possibly can. When we look at the effort they put into their teaching and into getting to know us, it makes us want to do well."

Chris Sonnenday, president of the fourth-year class, said the quality of the faculty and administration also leads to student satisfaction.

"The relationship that exists between faculty and the student body is one that won't be found in many medical schools across the country. The faculty is really dedicated to providing us with an outstanding education and also to giving us the flexibility to seek out our own interests. There is an emphasis on the well-rounded medical student."