Dean’s Newsletter – March 2011

March Madness, in terms of both basketball and crazy weather, has arrived in Providence.  It was almost 70 degrees the other day, but right now it is snowing.   March has brought some good news as well.

The rankings of the Alpert Medical School for 2011 in the latest US News & World Report improved this year over last year, in research from 32 to 29 and in primary care from 49 to 28. Before discussing the rankings, I want to share a testimonial with you from one of our third year medical students.  It also appeared in the US News & World Report that featured medical school rankings. 

Medical Student Profile: Why I Picked Brown University

A third-year medical student explains why she chose to attend Brown University.

By U.S. News Staff

Posted: March 15, 2011

Marina MacNamara is a 35-year-old student at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School. Here, in her own words, she tells U.S. News why she chose to attend the school to pursue her interest in primary care:

Medical school is, quite simply, hard. Thus, while I was applying, I was determined to find a place where I felt comfortable, where the point was not to break my spirit but to push me and stretch my brain. I quickly discovered that Brown was that place.

But what does it really mean to feel comfortable as a medical student? This clearly varies by individual. First and foremost, I wanted to be at a school where my commitment to eventually practicing primary care would be supported by the faculty and my peers alike. Brown not only boasts some of the top primary care residency programs, it also includes family medicine as a core clerkship; that is, a required rotation. These were important factors in my decision making.

As an older student, I was concerned about feeling isolated. But that hasn’t happened, and I continue to be amazed by my schoolmates’ diverse interests and experiences, from professional music-making to nongovernmental organization development to meditation, reflecting a group of very driven, intelligent students who are fun to work with.

I also quickly found that whether in large group lectures, small group discussions, or the clinical setting, the faculty as a whole is a stellar group of physicians who clearly love to teach. Through them, I have been able to explore a wide range of research and activities, from refugee health issues to the challenges faced by physician-mothers, an issue close to my heart.

Indeed, as a third-year medical student with a 2-year-old daughter, I have been grateful for the support I’ve received from faculty members and the administration as I integrate my new family into my chosen career. And, as I am learning, what better place to do so than Rhode Island, a tiny state with a huge personality.


To me there is no better expression of the quality, culture, values, and compassion of the Alpert Medical School.

The Research category ranking is driven by academic reputation (the opinion of our peers), NIH funding, the quality of the student body, and the faculty-to-student ratio. The Primary Care category is also driven by academic reputation, the quality of the student body, the faculty-to-student ratio, and the percentage of graduating seniors who enter primary care disciplines. While very pleased, I am also wary of the subjective nature of these rankings and their variability from year to year.  Looming in the future are the plans to declare a School of Public Health and the effect it would have on the medical school’s ranking. It is gratifying, however, to see our school consistently in the top one quarter of medical schools, and improving.

Match Day was joyful pandemonium.  As usual, I couldn’t get anyone’s attention just before students received their envelopes, and no one paid attention afterwards.  Our students are highly sought after by training programs.  The vast majority of students got their number one choice, and more students than last year are staying in Rhode Island. There was also an increase in students electing to go into primary care (50 percent this year compared to 40 percent last year); this is consistent with a national increase of 11 percent.  The results of the Match can be found by following this link.

The Medical School and Lifespan were the recipients of a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation to support primary care teaching.  Among other things, the grant allows financial support to our hard working primary care doctors to take medical students in their offices.  Such role modeling by our clinical faculty is one of the main determinants of what field students choose.  Phil Gruppuso, Kathleen Hittner from Lifespan, and Elizabeth Francis from Biomedical Advancement deserve the credit.

Finally, Casey Dunn in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology received the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation. With only one award given per year, this is a prestigious scientific honor given to young scientists.  Casey brings a unique perspective to his work on the genomics of invertebrates opening a whole new, important field of research. I also urge you to view his site creaturecast.org to see more of Casey’s creative work. His work would not have been possible without our new IBM supercomputer (thanks to Clyde Briant).  We are fortunate to have Casey his wife, Erika Edwards, another outstanding scientist, and their baby Ben in our academic community.

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