‘Mini-med school’ concept returns to OUWB for Class of 2026 parents, families
An image of families taking part in a TBL session
Family members of OUWB's Class of 2026 participated in a mock team-based learning session.

As OUWB’s Class of 2026 began its week of orientation, parents, families, and friends experienced a small sampling of what medical school will be like for the future physicians.

“OUWB: The Next Four Years” was hosted by the school’s development team.

During the event, the audience of more than 100 learned about scholarship opportunities, took part in a team-based learning activity, saw how medical students work with standardized patients, and were educated about OUWB’s new body donor program. Campus tours also were available.

Based on a “mini-medical school” concept, it was the first time since 2019 that friends and loved ones of OUWB students had the opportunity to participate in such a program. The global pandemic prohibited the program from taking place the last two years.

“The number one reason for this program is to provide information about what their medical student is going to be doing,” said Jordan Nash, development associate, OUWB. “The other big piece is helping understand what a parent do to support their student over the course of their medical school journey.”

Parents like James Karsten, father of Joel Karsten, of Grand Rapids, said they found the event "very helpful."

"It was inviting, welcoming, and reassuring," he said. "We know how hard it was for our son to get here, how hard it will be moving here...it's nice to think there's a team here who really gets that."

'The journey is just beginning'

Duane Mezwa, M.D., Stephan Sharf Dean, OUWB, kicked off the event by welcoming the family members.

“Your sons and daughters have come a long way, but the journey is just beginning. There’s still a long way to go,” he said. “But without your help, they never would have made it to this point. I appreciate how much you did to help get them here.”

Mezwa also provided a general overview of the “Next Four Years” program.

He said it was designed to “provide you with insight into what your students can expect over the next four years during their medical education journey, and how you, their family, can really support them during that time.”

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Following Mezwa’s welcome, two longtime administrators took the stage for an engaging and informative session on team-based learning (TBL) — an important component of the OUWB curriculum.

It was presented by Bob Noiva, Ph.D., associate dean, Graduate Studies and Community Integration, and associate professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, and David Thomas, Ph.D., associate dean, Preclinical Education, and associate professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies.

Essentially, audience members were presented with a hypothetical problem — fixing a car — and asked to diagnose the problem and come up with a solution. They were asked to do this individually and then as a group to demonstrate, among other things, how working as a team yields better results.

“This is to show the power of teams, which is essential in health care because you depend on others,” he said. “That’s why you get referred to a physician who may be a specialist in an area or they send you out for lab tests…you have to be part of a team.”

Noiva explained that, in many ways, competition has been bred in students and “that has got to go away.”

“So we use this technique to get them working as a team,” he said.

Nelia Afonso, M.D., assistant dean, Community Integration & Outreach, provided family members with a glimpse into OUWB’s Art & Practice of Medicine (APM) and how medical students learn to treat patients.

“We start right out in the first semester with a lot of basic skills…communication, physical exams, clinical reasoning, learning how to work as team,” she said.

Afonso stressed that “probably the best thing a physician can do is be a good communicator.”

An image of a parent with a standardized patient
A family member practices on one of OUWB's standardized patients.

A demonstration followed using several of OUWB’s standardized patients — professionals trained to act as if they have certain conditions and personalities to help future physicians prepare for different scenarios. Several volunteers stepped up to do mock evaluations and/or use a stethoscope.

Following the standardized patient portion of the morning, Berkley Browne, Ph.D., associate dean for Student Affairs, presented on the topics of student success and wellness.

She explained that Student Affairs is the team “who is there to support your student academically, with career development, wellness, and a host of other things from now until the time they walk the stage at commencement.”

Browne introduced the various members of OUWB’s team so family members could get a feel for whom their students will be interacting with throughout their time in medical school.

“We’re the folks who really try to empathize with students and help them integrate all of the things that they might use to take care of themselves,” she said.

The next presenters were Malli Barremkala, M.D., associate professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, and director of OUWB’s new body donation program, and Vern Pixley, president of Rochester-based Pixley Funeral Home.

Barremkala helped family members understand more about the donors who will allow the medical students to learn anatomy and histology. Pixley talked about how his business is donating space in a local cemetery for remains of the donors to be placed.

'My promise to you'

The session wrapped up with comments from Claus Weimann, director of Philanthropy, and Nash.

Weimann told the audience about the increase in scholarships OUWB has seen in recent years, but stressed “we still have a lot of work to do.”

He emphasized that, “I’m here really to serve, together with Jordan, your children and family members.”

“My promise to you is that I’ll do my absolute best to generate support for your students — your children and loved ones."

Nash noted that the Class of 2026 is embarking on a four-year journey “that’s going to net them a skill set that will impact thousands…of grateful patients over their career.”

“We want to recognize the fact that pursuing medicine is a noble pursuit and we thank you for trusting your students with us…they’re in fabulous hands,” he said.

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at [email protected].

To request an interview, visit the OUWB Communications & Marketing webpage.

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