Beginning with the class of 2017, the Alpert Medical School will grade the first two years of study solely on a satisfactory/no credit basis (S/NC).
While the S/NC grading option has been in place at the school, the previous policy also allowed students to earn honors distinction for certain courses after the first semester. There was a widespread interest in ditching the honors grading for preclinical classes among both administrators and students, according to the press release announcing the new policy.
Specifically, a survey of first-year medical students revealed that 65 percent of students favored the change. In 2011, a study conducted by researchers at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine found that “has a greater impact than other aspects of curriculum structure on their well-being. Curricular reform intended to enhance student well-being should incorporate pass/fail grading.”
To put the change in motion, members of the class of 2017 brought the issue to the other classes in the student senate, which then all agreed that the change would be a good one and voted to change the policy adopted by the school’s MD Curriculum Committee (MDCC). Prompted by the strong support among students, Luba Dumenco, chair of the subcommittee on the first two years of the MDCC, conducted additional research on the topic and found that grading options during preclinical years was quite common, with the country’s top 20 medical school using a pass/fail grading system without honors.
“I don’t think the absence of honors would have affected my stress levels tremendously during years one and two,” Greg Elia told The Herald, though he added that he supported the change on the whole. “Med students are highly self-motivated regardless of the honors distinction.” Following evidence presented to the MDCC, the school’s Office of Medical Education conducted their own study “indicating that 87 percent of students supported the motion to restrict preclinical grades to S/NC.”
And while the proposed policy change was not supported across the board, the MDCC made the decision to move forward based on the approval among the majority of the students and the support of evidence reflecting positive outcomes and beliefs. “Increasingly, as people saw the data, they became more interested in it, and that’s because the data were strong,” added Dumenco.