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March 2007

Volume 27 | Number 1

Collection of Articles

Report of the 2006 NAAHP Membership Survey Part 1: Similarities and Differences Between Faculty and Administrative/Professional Advisors
Kerry L. Cheesman, Ph.D.
Anne L. Ewing, Ph.D.

Authors Cheesman and Ewing describe the results of the survey of advisors requested by the NAAHP Board of Directors and administered in 2006. This electronic survey closely mirrored two previous surveys done in 1988 and 1992. 532 surveys were analyzed by SPSS software. Part 1 presents the data concerning the advisors, who they are, where they work, and how they are supported. Extensive detail is offered in the form of pie charts and clearly shows that advisors are a diverse group of people.

A number of findings were significant and, in many cases, represented changes from the previous surveys. Baccalaureate and doctoral degree granting institutions make up the largest representation among advisors, whereas community colleges are clearly under-represented. Administrative/professional advisors now make up the majority of NAAHP membership, perhaps reflecting the increase in membership of doctoral/research universities. There is a significant decrease in the number of tenure-track faculty members and a small increase in the number of advisors with professional degrees.

Other changes include an overall increase in budgetary support for advisors, although 11% report having no institutional support for travel. More advisors now participate in student recruitment and orientation. Faculty advisor salaries tend to be higher overall than administrative/professional ones, and tend to be higher in masters and doctoral granting institutions. One finding of concern is that 40% of tenure-track faculty receive no release time or compensation for their efforts. The authors suggest that NAAHP issue a “white paper” to help advisors address some of the concerns revealed by the survey.

Changing Premed Requirements and the Medical Curriculum
Emanuel Ezekiel J., M.D., Ph.D.

Bicameral Prerequisite Curriculum
Robert Blystone, Ph.D.

For the majority of this article, Blystone muses about the existence of and tension between the bicameral or dichotomous aspects of medicine. The basic sciences are balanced by clinical training. The current science requirements for admissions are juxtaposed to the social and interpersonal skills that characterize a good clinician. Critical thinking, analytical ability, and integration are all important, but these may be learned through quantitative and qualitative means.

Blystone argues that the sheer number of undergraduates expressing interest in medicine affects the staffing and funding of departments that offer the prerequisite courses required of these individuals. He also suggests that the skills required be expressed in terms of function, such as critical thinking, rather than anatomy, such as a specific course, and that these skills may be learned in any number of disciplines. It is clear that he thinks we should reassess who and what we want our doctors to be.

Diversity in Optometric Education
Melvin D. Shipp, O.D., M.P.H., Dr.P.H.

Dr. Melvin Shipp writes that “optometry is the nation’s third largest independent health care profession with prescribing authority …” He provides fundamental information about the profession and recommends five strategies for “addressing the under representation of minorities within optometry education.” These strategies include focusing on efforts to increase awareness and institutionalize “diversity/multiculturalism into each institution’s culture.”

The Health Professions Advisor's Letter of Evaluation: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Afraid to Ask
Kay H. Singer, Ph.D
Robert A. Witzburg, M.D.

In this article Dr Singer represents the advisors who write the letter of evaluation and Dr Witzburg represents the admissions deans who read and use these letters in their decisions. Witzburg sets the stage by identifying the admissions officer’s constituencies, the most important of which are patients and society. He also identifies the data made available in the admissions process, some of which is not helpful as might be expected. Grade inflation, for example, makes it difficult to distinguish among candidates and glowing faculty letters tend to offer any real insights. The advisor’s letter, however, has the potential to provide the necessary information that will allow for the meaningful evaluation and comparison of candidates.

The letter of evaluation is deemed most useful when it includes a candidate’s life story, academic history, personal qualities, and a fair, yet honest evaluation and recommendation. Personal qualities are broken down into a number of categories. Witzburg asserts that downplaying or withholding negative information serves the process, and ultimately the patient, poorly.

In response to Dr Witzburg’s comments, Dr Singer offers many excellent suggestions for structuring a useful and meaningful letter of evaluation. Based on her extensive experience writing letters for students at Duke U. , Singer suggests a three step process. First, from among the various models for letter writing, determine the process that best suits your program. Who will write the letter and what will be included? Second, collect the information available about your applicants. Such information might include GPA, activities, interview, and letters of recommendation. Third, decide on a format so admissions officers know where to look for specific information. She shares the format that she used for her advisees as an example. Finally, she offers some general advice such as using a spreadsheet for large groups of applicants, using macros for standard sentences and, of course, using VirtualEvals.

To Take or Not to Take: Online Science Courses as Prerequisites for Professional Schools
Ruth O. Bingham, Ph.D.

Online courses, although increasingly available, are a source of controversy and concern for pre-health students, their advisors, and the admissions committees who must evaluate them. These courses are taken for a variety of reasons, many of which are legitimate – convenience, flexibility, cost, and courses that are not offered by the home institution. Professional schools, however, vary widely in their acceptance of online courses, and advisors are often called upon to assist a student considering taking such a course. The author argues that the advisor’s role is to help the student assess an online course through a series of questions.

The student needs to be able to articulate a reason for taking an online course and the advisor needs to listen carefully for underlying reasons that may exist. The student also needs to consider how the course will fit into their overall academic planning. The advisor should then encourage the student to research their choice carefully, considering such things as course level, intended audience, format, cost, computer requirements, and time commitment. More difficult, but important aspects, such as the institution’s accreditation, reputation, and transcript appearance, must be assessed. In short, the student needs to understand the level of risk involved. Other details to consider include the instructor’s background, the syllabus, test format, class format, student: teacher ratio, instructional format, interactive capability, and assistance with both the material and technical problems.

Beyond the purely practical considerations, Bingham offers an interesting discussion of the skepticism and biases surrounding online courses. She also cites some thought-provoking comparisons of “live” courses and online ones, especially those involving laboratory exercises. She suggests that the final assessment must include consideration of the student’s learning style and identifies some styles that would seem a good fit for online learning.

Highlight on a Professions

Medical Radiation Physicists
Dawn LaBarbera, Ph.D., PA-C, C.N.T.M., RT(N)

Book Review: Nursing Against the Odds: How Health Care Cost Cutting, Media Stereotypes, and Medical Hubris Undermine Nurses and Patient Care
Book by Suzanne Gordon
Review by Judy Jensvold, M.Ed.

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