Why BUSM?


Outline of Fountain Outside the School of Medicine

BU School of Medicine (BUSM)

  1. What is “special” about BUSM?
  2. What is the typical BUSM student like?
  3. What is the atmosphere like for students?
  4. What are the housing options for students at BUSM?
  5. What are the faculty like?
  6. What kind of curriculum do we have?
  7. How well do BUSM students do on national exams and in the Internship Match (NRMP)?
  8. Are there opportunities for electives outside the BUSM system? What about international electives?
  9. Are there opportunities for students to participate in research?
  10. What career options are open to graduates of BUSM?
  11. What is it like to be a student in Boston?
  12. What kind of advising, mentoring, and support is available for students at BUSM?
  13. Why is BUSM so expensive and what is being done about it?
  14. Do I need a car at BUSM?
  15. What extracurricular activities are there at BUSM?
  16. What are some negative features of BUSM?

1. What is “special” about BUSM?

  • Integrated curriculum based in lecture, small group discussion, problem-based seminars, and service-learning.
  • A very strong research environment. We are among the leading research institutions in health care in the U.S.
  • BUSM and BU were recently rated as one of the top 100 universities in the world by Times Higher Education magazine in London.
  • Early introduction of patient contact for students. Students begin their clinical work during the first week of the 1st year curriculum. The clinical experience is based in core training at Boston Medical Center and includes both ambulatory and inpatient work. All students do some of their core training and some of their advanced clinical training off-campus, assuring that all receive a broad-based and varied experience.
  • A diverse faculty and student body. Our diversity is a reflection of our mission as an inner-city medical center, our commitment to diversity as an essential element in teaching cultural competence for physicians, and our special curricular tracks and combined degree programs.
  • The unifying theme of the BUSM experience is that Medicine and the health sciences exist in a larger social context. Students learn to care for, and to care about people wholly unlike themselves. This imperative for cultural competence is a uniquely challenging and rewarding aspect of our programs and is reflected in both preclinical and clinical work.
  • The institution serves a diverse population of patients from the City of Boston, as well as a large number of referrals from outside the city. During their clinical training, students see an extraordinary range of patients, disorders, and challenges. BUSM has been known, for many decades, as a preeminent school for clinical training, reflecting the depth and breadth of the clinical practice, in addition to the well-defined and structured role for students in the care of patients

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2. What is the typical BUSM student like?

  • One of the most important aspects of the BUSM experience is the diversity of students, faculty, institutions, patients, and communities we serve. Our Students are at BUSM because they have chosen to be here. They are very capable, motivated, and invested in the work we do together. Students describe themselves as being collegial and cohesive. There are numerous examples of academic collaboration and shared social activities. Visit our Class Profile page for further information

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3. What is the atmosphere like for students?

  • Very collegial. There is an unusually strong bond among students and between faculty and students. Academies of Advisors bring together students and their mentors in a personal and professional relationship that builds over time, beginning during the Introductory Module that occupies the first several weeks of the medical school curriculum.
  • The Office of Student Affairs is very committed to providing a supportive and flexible environment. Through programs for advising and mentoring, career counseling, tutoring, and through cooperation with the student government (SCOMSA), a broad foundation is built to enhance the personal and professional growth of our students.
  • The Office for Enrichment Programs under the leadership of Dr. Suzanne Sarfaty and Dr. Douglas Hughes in Academic Affairs, provides guidance and logistical support for students across a broad range of academic, clinical, and service opportunities that span the entire four year experience.

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4.What are the housing options for students at BUSM?

  • A new, on-campus, medical student residence is available for the entering class of 2012, developed as part of our effort to support a campus, student life experience. This state-of-the-art facility, with 104 2 bedroom suites, is a short walk from the core educational facilities of the medical school. Each suite includes 2 private bedrooms, with a shared living room, kitchen, and bathroom. Utilities, basic cable, broadband internet access, on-site exercise room, laundry, and event space are included in the rent. All students who live in the building will receive a housing scholarship grant, intended to reduce their overall cost of attendance at BUSM. For a virtual tour of the building, click here. See what current residents have to say here.
  • Off campus housing is available in a wide variety of neighborhoods in and around Boston, accessible by car or public transportation. The Office of Housing Resources on campus is an excellent resource to help new and current students plan their accommodations.

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5. What are the faculty like?

  • The faculty at BUSM is particularly known for their accessibility and their commitment to the success of every student. Graduates who pursue their post-graduate clinical training elsewhere regularly report that the clinical faculty they worked with at BUSM are “the best anywhere.”

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6. What kind of curriculum do we have and what changes do we anticipate in the next few years?

  • BUSM is proud of its curriculum and the process by which it is reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis by the Medical Education Committee, whose membership includes faculty and students, and its subcommittees. The academic program has been, for a number of years, a hybrid of a traditional, lecture-based program and a small group, problem-based seminar approach.
  • The first year curriculum has a traditional focus on the core building blocks of medical education: Gross Anatomy, Histology, Human Behavior in Medicine, Biochemistry, Physiology, Genetics, Neuroscience, Endocrinology and Immunology. Clinical contact is integrated into all courses.
  • The second year courses include a year-long integrated, organ-based course called “Disease and Therapy” (DRx), Intro to Clinical Medicine, Integrated Problems and USMLE Step 1 review programs.
  • The third year is comprised largely of the core clinical clerkships, including Pediatrics, Ob/Gyn, Family Medicine and Surgery.
  • The fourth year includes a small number of required advanced clinical experiences and a larger number of clinical electives. Fourth year students design their own curriculum in consultation with their specialty-specific advisors, working within flexible guidelines established by the faculty. Standardized patient exercises are utilized throughout the 4 years of the medical school, in order to supplement live patient experience with structured clinical skills training.
  • The clinical training at BUSM is based primarily at Boston Medical Center (BMC), our principle teaching hospital. BMC is a large, full service institution, providing primary, secondary, and tertiary care in more than 70 specialties. It’s Emergency and Trauma Center is the region’s busiest. During 2010, BMC provided more than 30,000 hospital admissions, 132,000 emergency department visits, 22,000 ambulatory surgical procedures, 845,000 ambulatory patient care visits, and 170,000 interpreter interactions.

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7. How well do BUSM students do on national exams and in the Internship Match (NRMP)?

  • In recent years, the USMLE Step I pass rate among first-time takers at BUSM has been 92-99%, and mean scores are consistently above the national average. Step II scores have been rising in the last 3 years, during the time in which the new, integrated curriculum has been the model for foundational science instruction. The Step 2 scores are typically higher, with pass rates in the 99-100% range for first-time takers.
  • In each of the last several years we have conducted a survey of our graduating students who participated in the match. By their own report, 91% matched to one of their top 4 choices, and 94% were satisfied or very satisfied with the results of the Match. Each year, a number of graduating BUSM students (15-25 per year) chooses to pursue their internship and residency within the BU system. Considering the national reputation of many of our post-graduate training programs, this speaks well both for the students and for the training programs.
  • BU students have, for many years, been considered among the strongest candidates for the most competitive post-graduate training programs. The scope of clinical training at BUSM is widely recognized as outstanding preparation for a rigorous internship and residency.

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8. Are there opportunities for electives outside the BUSM system? What about international electives?

  • Most of the 4th year of the curriculum is elective clinical time and students have broad flexibility in choosing rotations outside the BU system. In addition, Dr. Suzanne Sarfaty, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs and Director of the Office for Enrichment Programs, has responsibility for our international elective program, assisting students in securing electives all over the world. This program is considered a national model, has been replicated at other schools, and there is no cap on the number of students who can participate. Limited funding is available to defer part of the cost of international electives for some students.

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9. Are there opportunities for students to participate in research?

  • BUSM is a very large research institution, with an unusually broad and diverse research agenda. Students have opportunities to participate in many areas, and significant numbers of students do so. There is a summer research stipend program, providing financial support for students doing 8 week research electives during the summer between their 1st and 2nd year.

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10. What career options are open to graduates of BUSM?

  • The broad-based, rigorous education at BUSM supports career aspirations in virtually any clinical or health sciences discipline. Over a period of many decades, BUSM alumni have taken on leadership positions in research, clinical practice, academics, and public service. A significant number of our graduates pursue careers in academic medicine, as investigators and educators, while many others move into full time clinical careers. The culture of public service at BUSM is reflected in the career choices of many of our graduates.

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11. What is it like to be a student in Boston?

  • There are very few places that can match Boston as a place to study medicine. BUSM students have opportunities to attend academic and social events at other institutions and during the clinical years BUSM students frequently work with students, interns, residents, and faculty from other schools.
  • Boston is a relatively small city, but hosts over 250,000 full time students during the academic year. There are scores of educational, cultural, and recreational opportunities in and around Boston. There is good public transportation in the city and although housing is expensive, there are a number of options that students can consider both on-campus and in the neighborhoods of the city. Boston is a diverse, fun, student-friendly city!

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12. What kind of advising, mentoring, and support is available for students at BUSM?

  • Advising is organized within a structure of 6 Academies of Advisors. Each entering student joins an academy and is assigned a peer student advisor and a faculty advisor from the group. Academy-based activities are organized to facilitate the development of strong personal and professional relationships among the students and faculty in the academy, and students meet regularly with their advisor and any other faculty they may choose to approach.
  • In addition, specialty-specific advisors are chosen by students as they begin to refine their career goals during the clinical clerkships of the 3rd year.
  • The Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, led by Dr. Rafael Ortega, an active clinician and teacher, is critical to our efforts to develop a physician work force reflective of our diverse society.
  • Academic tutoring and support is available for any interested student and numerous members of the faculty in the School of Medicine, School of Public Health, and the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences, mentor students with research interests.
  • Perhaps more important than the formal programs, is the fact that our faculty are extremely accessible. Both in the basic sciences, as well as in the clinical disciplines, faculty at BUSM share a deep commitment to our students and to their success as medical students and physicians.

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13. Why is BUSM so expensive and what is being done about it?

  • BUSM is in the group of private, non-profit medical schools in the US that do not receive any public funding to support their educational programs. This group of schools has no obligation to discriminate among applicants on the basis of geography of residence, and therefore have the opportunity to select a very diverse student body. Unfortunately, this also means that the cost of each student’s education must be covered by institutional funds, with no supplement from local, state, or federal governments.
  • At the national level, it is estimated that tuition currently covers only 35%-50% of the cost of educating an individual student. The picture at BUSM is no different, and the school makes up the gap through research grants, training grants, institutional funds, endowment income, and gifts of various types. Although our medical school shares a campus with the hospital, the school of public health, the dental school, and several other institutions, the finances and budgets of these programs are all entirely separate.
  • The Dean, the President of the University, and Board of Trustees have declared that tuition support and scholarship aid are the highest fund raising priorities at BUSM and a major effort is underway to increase the institutional funds available to help students and families cover the cost of a BUSM education. Approximately 80% of BUSM student receive some sort financial support, with scholarships accounting for a rising proportion of that aid.
  • The Office of Student Financial Services (OSFS), under the leadership of Elayne Peloquin, is charged with ensuring that every student at BUSM is able to graduate with a manageable educational debt. Through the use of need-based scholarships and loans, the professional staff of the OSFS assists each individual student in assembling a financing package that works for him or her. The OSFS office also provides financial counseling to our medical student graduates.
  • As an institution we are concerned with the cost of medical education and are working vigorously to help students reduce the amount of debt they accumulate during the course of their studies.

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14. Do I need a car at BUSM?

  • Parking is limited and expensive in Boston; nowhere is this more of an issue than on the BUSM campus. While many students find it to be convenient to have a car for travel to clinical placements, even in the first 2 years, some students choose to avoid the trouble and expense of owning a car in Boston. Public transportation is very good and many off-campus sites for training during the first 2 years are quite accessible. It is common for students to car-pool or use Zip Cars for these occasional off-campus sessions and the school provides stipends to cover these costs during the first 2 years. The clinical training during the 3rd and 4th years takes students somewhat further afield and, while a few students manage without a car, almost everyone finds it to be necessary to have one. On-campus parking for 3rd and 4th year students is more readily available, especially when they are on a campus-based clinical assignment.

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15. What extracurricular activities are there at BUSM?

  • An abbreviated list of popular organizations and activities includes the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), The Student National Medical Association (SNMA), The Hispanic Health Outreach Leadership Association (HHOLA), The Outreach Van Project (providing basic medical care for homeless people in Boston), The Anna Bissonnette House Project (caring for frail elders), the Sharewood Project (providing primary and preventive health care services to underserved communities), The Boston Area Health Education Center (paid and volunteer health-related activities in the community), The Center for International Health, The Creative Arts Society, Student Committee on Medical School Affairs (SCOMSA, the student government), The Primary Care Society, Medical Students for Choice, The Family Medicine Interest Group, Domestic Violence Awareness Project, International Health Organization, and the Pediatric Education and Development Society, and WHORL (literary and arts magazine).

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16. What are some negative features of BUSM?

  • The most important negative feature of BUSM is, without doubt, the cost. The cost of attendance is high, as is the cost of living. BUSM tuition, $50,950 for 2012-2013, is among the highest in the nation.
  • The multiple pathways into BUSM produce a varied and interesting faculty and student body which contribute a great deal to the experience of a BUSM education. This diversity in educational background, however, also leads to a variable course load during the first year and, in the past, some students felt that the Honors/Pass/Fail grading system encouraged unnecessary competitiveness. With a strict Pass/Fail grading system in the first 2 years, this concern appears to have been reduced or eliminated.
  • There are many extracurricular activities at BUSM and Boston is a very lively city. Students are at risk for over committing themselves and may encounter difficulty in maintaining focus on their academic work.
  • Parking is limited and expensive, both on-campus and in the residential neighborhoods of Boston.

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Primary teaching affiliate
of BU School of Medicine