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Brown University Medical School

Survey Results (2)
Teaching
7.7 (B+)
Basic Sciences
5.0 (C)
Clinical Preparation
6.9 (B)
Useful
5.8 (C+)
Knowledge Level
8.8 (A)
Helping Doctor
9.2 (A)
Patient Interaction
9.2 (A)
Job Assistance
5.8 (C+)
Overall, how would you rate the quality of your school?
6.2 (B-)
Helpful Advising
1.9 (D)
Level of Burnout
8.8 (A)
Individual Value
6.2 (B-)
Social Life
8.1 (B+)
Extracuriculars
8.5 (A-)
Surrounding City
6.5 (B-)
Meeting People
7.7 (B+)
Romance
7.7 (B+)
Business

Administration is RUN by FAMILY MEDICINE physicians.  There are good and bad aspects of this.  I think they used the values of family medicine to select an excellent group of students who are conscientious about patient care and social and personal values.  This is great. 

The diversity of hospital rotations (major trauma center, high acuity community hospital, VA, psychiatric sites) is excellent.  The range of diseases is also excellent. 

EXCELLENT EXPERIENCE - Medicine rotation, emergency medicine rotation.  Have also heard that orthopedics is great and well respected.

GOOD (BREAD & BUTTER) EXPERIENCE - OB/GYN rotation, psychiatry rotation.  Hospital is in the nation's top 10 in terms of number of deliveries yearly.  The nurse midwives are excellent, dedicated educators.  The Labor & Delivery nurses, however, are extremely unprofessional and make the OB/GYN rotation a bad experience for most students (and many patients as well).

WEAK ROTATION - In my opinion, surgery.  You get enough bread-and-butter cases to get a feel for whether or not you want to go into general surgery, but many “juicy” cases go to Boston, New Haven, or any number of other surrounding hospitals that do more surgery. 

NO RESIDENCY EXISTS AT BROWN IN: Anesthesiology, ENT.  I don't know about radiation oncology.  Note that these specialists do work at Brown, but there simply is no residency program.  If you decide to go into these specialties, you must go the extra mile to get experience and letters of recommendation.

QUALITY OF ACADEMIC ADVISING IS VERY POOR.  My first “advisor” at Brown was the alcoholic “learning specialist” who spent most of his advising time taking personal phone calls and chugging a bottle of Pepto-Bismol “for my acid reflux.” He knew nothing about medicine and couldn't even help you with your learning difficulties.  Waste of my time to see him and waste of money to hire him.

The “family medicine or bust” attitude of the administration in the past has caused Brown to do a VERY POOR JOB OF SUPPORTING STUDENTS INTERESTED IN NON-PRIMARY CARE SPECIALTIES.  You want to go into family medicine?  Good for you, here are a million resources and we can tell you all about it and hook you up with lots of people and a huge number of research projects and community opportunities.  Want to do something else? NO!  Here, have a brochure from the American Academy of Family Physicians.  We don't have any other information for you."

They did a VERY POOR JOB OF ADVISING STUDENTS ON PREPARING FOR THE USMLE.  The former dean, Steven Smith, used to walk up and announce seriously to the class, “You don't need to study for the Boards!” After struggling in the past couple of years with a boards pass rate that's down in the pits (15% failed in 2003, 20% failed in 2004, compared to national average of <10% failing), they are making some efforts to improve their basic science teaching and advising, but curriculum reform, as in most medical schools, happens slowly and seems to be a constant experiment with next year's students being the guinea pigs.

The administration is POORLY ORGANIZED and, the school being only 30 years old, does not have a well established infrastructure.  Every administrative detail is the ultimate responsibility of some secretary in the dean's office.  There is NO SYSTEM for handling things — it's just secretary dependent.  Secretaries go on vacation, and it's not uncommon for Brown students to feel that the medical school secretaries are paid full time to come into work at 10am, take a two hour lunch and a few smoke breaks, and leave at 3:55pm.  For four days a week.  If you have an application deadline to meet and the secretary happens to be on vacation or call in sick, you are screwed.  There is no system in place to handle those situations.

The grading system is HONORS/PASS/FAIL with slim margins for getting honors.  There is no “high pass” on the transcript, nor is there an Alpha Omega Alpha honor designation.  In my opinion this hurts most Brown students when competing with other candidates for residency.  I have also been informed during my interviews that Brown's DEAN'S (MSPE) LETTERS ARE POORLY WRITTEN or uninformative compared to other schools.  Once again, this hurts you in the residency application process.

Despite these problems, the yearly MATCH LIST IS EXCELLENT with many students matching into top programs.  Despite Brown being a middle-of-the-road (sometimes mediocre) medical school, many interviewers think more highly of Brown than I realized or expected during interviews.  However, the quality of the match list is more credit to the STUDENTS and not the school. 

Brown students aim high and do well, in spite of Brown.  We were Ivy Leaguers from the beginning (they admitted most of us out of high school) and our tendency is to do well anyway.  But the medical school is not of the same caliber as the university itself. 

If I were to re-apply to medical school, I would not choose Brown.  I had the talent, ability, and the undergraduate Brown degree (no small thing) to have landed a place at a better medical school.  However, at the time I entered med school I really thought I shared many of the same values as the Brown administration (family medicine, patient centered care, concern for relationships with patients and social considerations).  Things worked out anyway, but I would tell my loved ones applying to medical school, to consider a more well established one.

Again, match list is excellent — better than most other medical schools in the country.  So ultimately you cannot go wrong by going to Brown.  But it is not a perfect place.  (Neither is any other place.)

 
BASIC SCIENCE (years 1 and 2) is considered by most students to be a WEAKNESS of Brown's education.

USMLE PREPARATION in 2004-2006 has been VERY POOR.  The former dean, Steven Smith, used to walk up and tell the class, “You don't need to study for the boards.” Not true, and in 2004 and 2005 15% and 20% of students failed the boards respectively (compared to national average of 7%).  This has been a big heads-up to the administration, and with a new Dean of Medicine and a new curriculum development committee the school is working on fixing up the basic science curriculum.

ACADEMIC AND CAREER ADVISING is VERY POOR.  Academic advising in the first two years has been virtually non-existent.  My first and second year “advisor” was the “learning specialist” hired by the medical school to work with students with learning disabilities.  He knew nothing about medicine and couldn't tell me anything I didn't already know about study skills (his own area of expertise).  During meetings with him, he would spend most of the meeting time answering personal phone calls and chugging a bottle of Pepto-Bismol for his “acid reflux.” (I personally suspect he may have been an alcoholic.)

Many of the deans and higher-level administrators are or were board certified in FAMILY MEDICINE.  The FAMILY MEDICINE DEPARTMENT HAS A LOT OF POWER in the medical school, and I believe this has a few positive and a few negative things.  I believe family medicine values were employed to do a great job in selecting top notch students who are for the most part socially conscious, bright, and concerned about the relational aspects of patient care.  That was good.

However... advising and SUPPORT FOR NON PRIMARY CARE CAREER CHOICES is VERY POOR.  You want to go into family medicine?  You will get endless resources, support, mentoring, community projects, and research opportunities.  However, you want to go into something else?  You're on your own.  The medical school will send you a brochure about how to make specialty choices — from the American Academy of Family Physicians, no less — and leave you to it.

Brown is a new medical school that's only been around 30 years.  Its lack of organizational systems and structure is a SERIOUS FLAW.  Because there are no real systems in place, its day to day running is entirely dependent upon a few secretaries hired to do the job.  Many students feel they come in for work at 9:55am, take a two hour lunch break plus several smoke breaks, and leave promptly at 3:55pm — for three out of five work days a week!  If you have an application deadline approaching but the secretary has called in sick or is on vacation, forget it — you're screwed.  There is no system in place to make sure everything flows smoothly without particular persons.  They lost TWO out of my THREE my letters of recommendation for residency and I had to ask my writers to re-send them.  How embarrassing.

Grades are Honors/Pass/Fail with a narrow margin for honors, and there is no Alpha Omega Alpha chapter.  I have been informed that the Dean's letters (MSPE) from Brown are not well written and don't look great compared to Dean's letters from other schools.  All of these factors hurt us a little in the residency application process.

Onto the clinical rotations (MUCH BETTER news, in fact they are mostly EXCELLENT):

The hospital facilities are excellent and the range of disease you see is amazingly great.  You get experience in a Level I Trauma Center with an emergency department that sees 120,000 patient visits a year — the fifth busiest in the US.  You also get excellent experience in a high acuity community hospital (much harder work than the trauma center), the local VA hospital which is typical of all VA's, and a few other locations.

MEDICINE clerkship is EXCELLENT.  Broad range of disease pathology, with residents who are well chosen and who mostly are happy and conscientious.

SURGERY is so-so.  You will get all the bread-and-butter you need.  You won't get some of the juicy cases you'd see at other hospitals nearby.  Brown is right in between Boston and New Haven.  No heart, lung, or liver transplants occur here.  No pediatric cardiac surgery occurs here.  There IS bread-and-butter neurosurgery and bread-and-butter orthopaedics.  The rare stuff goes elsewhere.

OB/GYN is in a good hospital with a good residency program (huge volume of deliveries annually, among the top 10 in the US in terms of deliveries).  Student experience is not as positive as it could be on the labor & delivery floor, as the labor nurses at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence are often extremely unprofessional to students (and patients as well).  The experience provided by the hospitals numbers should be excellent, but the nurses unfortunately are not good.

PSYCHIATRY and PEDIATRICS are bread-and-butter.  Good experiences.

The MATCH LIST IS EXCELLENT with many students getting their top choices, at top-ranked residency programs.  Brown students are good to begin with, and they aim high in terms of residency.  They probably seek residencies with prestige/reputation at a higher rate than most, and they seem to land them as well.  Oftentimes I think this is IN SPITE OF Brown, which has dropped the ball multiple times in terms of the pre-clinical teaching, the preparation for board exams, lack of good advising, and multiple administrative errors.

If you come to Brown, I have no doubt that you would do well.  Brown students land great residencies.  But there are some glaring weaknesses that need to be fixed and that fortunately have raised enough red flags to earn some attention from the administration.  I came to Brown because I really did share the administration's values for patient care and the importance of the doctor-patient relationship.  However, my interests changed and I find that Brown has been unable to support the needs of a student body which is increasingly 1) not interested in primary care, and 2) interested in building a competitive residency application with strong board scores and strong grades and good career moves.  We graduate from Brown knowing that it's not because Brown did well, but because we did. 

 
I am writing this review as a graduating medical student in 2005. 

The quality of life at Brown Medical School is good.  Students are socially conscious, friendly, enjoyable, and involved in a diverse array of activities. 

Brown is located in Rhode Island. 

PATIENT POPULATION - The patient population is largely indigent.  Many are Spanish or Portuguese speaking only.  The diversity of presenting patient complaints and diseases is excellent.  Rhode Island is largely a poor state with related health problems.

EMERGENCY ROOM - Level I trauma center, one of the busiest (I think it's #5) in the country.  Great experience. 

 
I originally entered Brown through the eight year Program in Liberal Medical Education. 
 

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