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Three Innovative Curricula for Addressing Medical Students' Career Development

Navarro, Anita M. MEd; Taylor, Anita D. MAEd; Pokorny, Anita P. MEd

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181ff7dfc
Medical Student Education

Medical students make specialty decisions that are critically important to their long-term career satisfaction and overall well-being. The dynamic of larger class sizes set against stagnant numbers of residency positions creates an imperative for students to make and test specialty decisions earlier in medical school. Ideally, formal career advising begins in medical school.

Medical schools typically offer career development programs as extracurricular offerings. The authors describe three curricular approaches and the innovative courses developed to address medical students' career development needs. The models differ in complexity and cost, but they share the goals of assisting students to form career identities and to use resources effectively in their specialty decision processes.

The first model is a student-organized specialties elective. To earn course credit, students must complete questionnaires for the sessions, submit results from two self-assessments, and report on two physician informational interviews. The second model comprises two second-year career development courses that have evolved into a longitudinal career development program. The third model integrates career topics through a doctoring course and advising teams. The authors discuss challenges and lessons learned from implementing each of the programs, including marshaling resources, achieving student buy-in, and obtaining time in the curriculum. Invoking a curricular approach seems to normalize the tasks associated with career development and puts them on par in importance with other medical school endeavors.

Mrs. Navarro is research analyst, Careers in Medicine, Association of American Medical Colleges, Washington, DC. At the time this article was started, she was at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Medicine.

Mrs. Taylor is associate professor and director of career advising, Office of Student Affairs, Oregon Health & Sciences University School of Medicine, Portland, Oregon.

Mrs. Pokorny is director of career development and advising, Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, Rootstown, Ohio.

Correspondence should be addressed to Mrs. Navarro, Association of American Medical Colleges, 2450 N St., NW, Washington, DC; telephone: (202) 741-0997; fax: (202) 862-6060; e-mail:

First published online November 18, 2010

© 2011 Association of American Medical Colleges