Quillen College of Medicine serving as national model for career advisement

Contributed To The Press • Jul 30, 2016 at 7:55 PM

Several years ago, leaders at East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine recognized a need to offer better career advisement opportunities for medical students. Now, their solution is serving as a national model.

“We had been experiencing student dissatisfaction with career planning,” said Dr. Ken Olive, executive associate dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs. “We assigned advisors from day one, but the students weren’t going to see them. We started looking at what motivates medical students, and in the first two years, it is grades.”

With that in mind, Olive and Dr. Tom Kwasigroch, associate dean for Student Affairs at the medical school, proposed a curriculum change that made career exploration mandatory for all Quillen students via a three-year course called the Career Explorations Program.

The course involves self-assessments that help individuals determine what type of doctors they might be best suited to become. It also includes a variety of requirements to better prepare students to make these significant career decisions.

“In that first year, physicians from different specialties come do panel discussions, the students learn how to prepare a curriculum vitae, they commit to looking at specialties and they meet one-on-one with a faculty advisor for exploration of interests and abilities,” Olive said. “In the second and third years, there are more panels, they update their CVs and they meet with the advisor again. Finally, they select a clinical advisor to help them as they approach their final year of medical school.”

The Class of 2012 was the first class to complete the revamped career advising at Quillen, and students in each class thereafter have taken part.

“It has had markedly positive outcomes and we plan on continuing it for the foreseeable future,” Olive said. “This is important because we want students to pursue careers they’ll feel fulfilled and happy in because they’re going to be better physicians that way.”

Last month, Academic Medicine Innovation Reports published an article by Olive, Kwasigroch and their colleagues, Dr. Daniel Wooten, professor; Cynthia Lybrand, medical education coordinator; and Catherine Peeples, clinical medical education coordinator. The article, “A Career Exploration Program: An Effective Alternative to the Traditional Use of Faculty Advisors,” details the approach taken by Quillen to improve career exploration among its students and the outcomes of the Career Exploration Program.

“When we were looking at what to do, we couldn’t find anybody who had done this as a required curricular element,” Olive said. “It’s great to have this published so other medical schools might be able to learn from it and find something that works for them.”

For information, call 423-439-4317 or visit www.etsu.edu.