Prematriculation programs, like all programs, are a collection of coordinated activities designed to correct deficiencies in needed skills. In particular, prematriculation programs address competencies needed by students for rapid adjustment to the medical curriculum so that their education can be maximally effective. This raises the immediate question, “Why isn’t premedical education an adequate prematriculation program?” The simple, perhaps oversimplified, answer is “heterogeneity.” On the surface, it would appear that the important heterogeneity is in content background in spite of standard admissions prerequisites. This is evident in many prematriculation programs that provide exposure to content specifically designed to familiarize the student with early courses in medical school. Dig a little deeper and you find heterogeneity in the capacity of new students to adapt from the relatively flexible premedical environment to the less flexible medical curriculum. However, both of these types of heterogeneity exist as effects and not causes of successful skill acquisition in medical education. The heterogeneity that exists as a “cause” is the level of understanding of what a “learning skill” really is. Without this understanding, awareness is absent and in the absence of awareness, skill acquisition is impossible. Such skill areas would include problem analysis, visual recognition, communication, motor (both fine and gross), and procedural skills. Perhaps we need to address more than cognitive performance in prematriculation programs if they are to provide a lasting effect.
In this one-hour Web Audio Seminar, Dr. Pelley will provide a sampling of the various general approaches that he has experienced at his own institution and as a participant at other institutions. The discussion period may bring out additional program designs for comparison. The purpose is to illustrate the nature of the problems that are addressed and the general expectations of faculty for new medical students. A suggested prioritization of skill development will be suggested using the Expert Skills Program at Texas Tech as an example of a low resource, time efficient strategy to start the student on the path to Mastery Learning. The objective will be to help participants compose a program that can develop the student while they are in the premedical education environment that continues to scaffold their experience throughout medical school. Issues in measuring program effectiveness will be addressed. We can tell our students, “Our goal is not just to help you survive, but to help you match well for a residency!”