Q & A With Academic Dean Andrew Merry

IUHS Students "learn how to learn".

Andrew Merry, PhD, Dean of Academic Affairs, oversees academic standards as well as academic and student academic support activities. Dean Merry is also the architect of the Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Pre-Med programs.

How can a student be successful in medical school? 

The first thing a student at a professional or graduate level needs to appreciate is that they are undertaking a huge educational proposition. Bigger than they have likely ever encountered in their previous secondary and undergrad level studies. They are going beyond the limits where it is possible to “cram” or memorize to pass let alone develop any understanding of the material. They need to appreciate that they need to learn how to learn. In the case of a medical student they are simply applying those skills to medicine and medical sciences whereas someone else who wishes to become a rocket scientist will apply those skills to engineering, chemistry, physics, etc. They need to understand how to organize the knowledge they are acquiring and learn how to validate and verify and integrate it as they accrue it. Yes students will have to remember many things but they will also be able to reason from key principles to manage this huge body of knowledge. The IUHS curriculum teaches the subjects of medicine but more importantly it teaches the skills of self-assessment and self-study so that the student becomes a life long learner prepared to face their immediate school and licensing exams and keep up with the changes in medicine and their future board and relicensing exams during their career.

How can a student get into medicine?

There are many pathways to medicine. Essentially any education that offers the student the necessary and appropriate foundation studies commonly referred to as pre-req’s will prepare the student for the science of medicine. The desire, drive and compassion necessary to undertake the profession is fostered through a wide range of programs and life experiences. This is a conundrum for many students. In reality there is no best, guaranteed or right way to prepare to compete for a spot in medical school even though most students seem to take a fairly narrow common path. For the student who has decided and knows they really want to try for medicine, IUHS offers a premedical program that will guide them directly into medical school.

The IUHS premedical program provides the necessary foundations while illuminating their importance to medicine so as to engage the student on what they may not have appreciated was important to their medical studies.

The IUHS premedical program is comprised of academic offerings that provide the knowledge to meet the entry requirements and expectations to a full degree in medical sciences. For the career changer, who has decided to become a physician either after starting a different career path completely outside of healthcare or after experience in a different role as a healthcare provider (such as nurse, PA, NP, etc), the IUHS premedical program allows them to fill in any gaps they would need to become eligible to undertake medical school.

What makes IUHS different than other medical schools?

IUHS was an early adopter of Problem Based Learning and has been a pioneer in the development of that model as it grew into a case based organ systems approach to medical education. IUHS was also a leader in developing the electronic classroom which brought flexibility to medical education that opened opportunities to professors as well as students. The combination of these educational innovations allows the University two unique elements in its teaching paradigm. First, the University is able to provide teaching opportunities to remarkable faculty at leading medical schools who have otherwise busy clinical, research or teaching careers. The faculty in turn has a platform to develop remarkable teaching tools to present the curriculum as well as create learning exercises for the students. Second, the student now has a huge amount of time that is freed up frees up for them to organize their studies around the classes.

IUHS is also a big proponent of early clinical exposure to facilitate the development of clinical thinking and skills. Preclinical/pre-clerkship students start their integrated clinical activities immediately.

As a bridge between the classroom and the clinic/hospital IUHS utilizes a community of virtual patients in an award winning dynamic interface (DxR) to help students’ practice critical thinking in approaching clinical problems while refining their communication skills with patients. Once the student is in clinicals, the IUHS program continues to offer the student flexibility in their education in that a student may take their clerkship rotations in any approved teaching facility in the world. IUHS clinical students are linked through a common curriculum but enjoy the opportunity to pursue their practicum’s in a way to help shape their developing interests or take advantage of once in a lifetime opportunities.

Can a graduate of IUHS practice anywhere?

Each country and even each state, province or territory controls the licensing of physicians. Each jurisdiction deals with international medical graduates somewhat differently but generally the standard of the USMLE’s in a graduates profile and ECFMG/EICS certification makes them eligible in most jurisdictions. This applies to IUHS grads as well. This is why the USMLE Step exams are integrated into the IUHS medical program.

Though still a small school, IUHS has grads practicing in the US, Canada, Australia, India, the UK, Jerusalem, Botswana, Somalia, and the UAE. The question comes up for many of our students because within the US there are a couple of states that have not yet approved IUHS grads. Over time as IUHS grads spread out to those few states that haven’t yet approved IUHS grads or don’t use general standards but use specific school lists, the entire US will likely be available to IUHS grads. The question also comes up in countries like the UK where residency restrictions require a graduate to have done at least half of their program on the home campus of their graduating school. The hurdles have been established to prevent weak students trying to jump to a questionable school to salvage their degree and graduate. Unfortunately, it inadvertently excludes IUHS students who use the distributed platform for the majority of their program rather than mainly attending the St.Kitts campus and clinics. That being said, IUHS grads meeting residency requirements of the UK are eligible to practice in the UK.

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