Course Of Action Mini Med School Offers Dose of Reality


Paul Friedmann, M.D., says graduates of Baystate Health System’s upcoming “Mini Medical School” certainly won’t walk away with a license to practice medicine.
What they will gain from the eight-week session, he said, is a certificate and, more importantly, a better understanding of modern medical education and current medical topics.

Based on a model first used at the University of Colorado Medical School in 1989 and since copied by more than 75 other universities and health care systems across the country, the mini medical school is designed to give participants a taste of what it’s like to be a medical student, said Friedmann, senior vice president of Academic Affairs at Baystate.

When asked who might be interested in such insight, Friedmann gave a slight shrug of the shoulders and said, going to find out.”

Other mini medical schools around the country have attracted young people looking into careers in medicine, parents and spouses of medical school students who want an appreciation of what the real thing is like, individuals who want to know more about the human body and maintaining proper health, and some people already in health care who want to explore other career possibilities. Friedman is expecting a few from each constituency to attend Baystate’s sessions, which begin in March.

Summing up the program, he said it was another of Baystate’s many community outreach efforts. He said the first year of the school would give organizers an indication of the level of interest in the concept and some ideas on how to tailor the curriculum.

“This first year will be an experiment,” he told The Healthcare News. “This has been a success just about everywhere it’s been tried, and we’re sure it will be a success here as well.”

Testing the Waters

When asked what the mini medical school is Friedmann started by stressing what it isn’t.

For starters, it isn’t for people who want to learn about specific diseases and ailments, he said. Rather, the curriculum provides a broad-brushed look at modern medicine, one that focuses on subjects such as anatomy, alternative medicine, the aging process, and cardiovascular health.

“It’s not designed to be an education around diseases,” Friedmann stressed. “The subjects we’ll address are essentially building blocks, topics that have relevance to today’s medical practice and today’s medical education.”

And while the program is not specifically designed for young people who might want to know what they’re up against if they pursue a career in medicine, it could certainly evolve into that, said Friedman.

Who is it designed for?

Anyone who feels a need, professional or otherwise, to know more about medicine and medical education, he told The Healthcare News.

Potential students could be older individuals interested in knowing more about their own health and the aging process, health professionals who want to expand their base of knowledge, perhaps system administrators or members of the Board of Directors who want to understand more about the issues dominating health care today, and the idle curious.

“Each one of these groups will bring a unique set of concerns and things that they would like to learn,” he explained, adding that the program will evolve through the years to reflect the wants and needs of its students.

Recognizing the shortages in many health care fields, particularly nursing and many specialties such as radiology, Friedman said the mini medical school could be one vehicle to generate interest in such professions and give individuals a head start in their education for such careers.

However, the program may need to be retooled and become more technical in nature if it is to be effective in that role, he said.

Following this year’s classes there will be a thorough review of the program to determine if and where changes should be made. “I’m very interested in seeing how this first year plays itself out,” he said. “Based on what we see and hear back from participants, we could go in a number of different directions.”

This spring’s classes will be taught by members of the Baystate staff, said Freidman, who said that, when putting together the curriculum, program organizers played to the strengths of the faculty.

The program will be limited to about 40 participants, he said, to allow a strong level of interaction between students and faculty members. Several individuals have already signed up — many from within the broad Baystate community — but many seats, to be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, are still available.

Here is how the upcoming semester breaks down:

March 20: Anatomically Correct — An overview of the human body taught by Dr. David Page, general surgeon, Baystate Surgical Associates.

March 27: Neuro Logic —Learn how the brain works and how to tell when something is wrong, taught by Dr. Brian Smith, neurologist, Baystate Medical Associates, and Dr. Benjamin Liptzin, chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at BMC.

April 3: All in the Family — Find out what your genetic makeup may mean for your future health, taught by Dr. Gabriel Cohn, chief of Reproductive Genetics, and Dr. Stephen Naber, chief of Molecular Pathology and Genetics, both at BMC.

April 10: Unconventional Wisdom: A Primer of Prevention and Alternative Medicine — Learn about alternative medicine and discuss how treatments can work with mainstream medicine, taught by Dr. David Rose, chief, General Medicine/Geriatrics Division, and Dr. Ethel Baroon, obstetrician/gynecologist, both at BMC.

April 17: Surgery, Anesthesia, and Pain Management: A Fascinating History, an Amazing Future — Take a virtual tour of an operating room and see how techniques have evolved over the years, taught by Dr. Richard Wait, chairman, Department of Surgery, and Dr. Robert Steinberg, director, Pain Management Center, both at BMC.

April 24: Matters of the Heart: Cardiovascular Health — Find out about good and bad cholesterol and what a low-fat, high-fiber diet can do, taught by Dr. Robert Engelman, cardiac surgeon at BMC.

May 1: Age of Enlightenment — Learn how to make the aging process as positive and healthy as possible, taught by Dr. Maura Jo Brennan, director of the Geriatric Consultation Program at BMC.

All classes will be held at BMC. The cost for the program is $95, or $80 for Senior Class and Spirit of Women members. Free parking and refreshments will be provided. To register, call (800) 377-HEALTH or visit .www.baystatehealth.com/minimed