A few weeks ago I was asked to do a piece on the physiology department.  I was asked to include my opinion of/relationship with the department in regards to what has been said on Valuemd.  You can check out the actual thread via this link or look at a condensed version word file here.  Keep in mind the following is both my opinion as well as excerpts from the Valuemd thread.

My relationship with the AUC physiology department was a very personal roller coaster.  What sticks out in my mind about the department was what I learned from two different teachers; Dr. Hammrell and Dr. DeMesquita.  First, Dr. Hammrell taught me that good physiology professors come to AUC.  Secondly, Dr. DeMesquita taught me a new phrase/verb; the “mothers hat”.  Dr. DeMesquita constantly put the “mothers hat” on with me whenever I visited her and would basically proceed to dictate my life.  I believed then and now that she had the best intentions in mind but she crossed the line when once telling me, “you’re not going to make it through medical school”.  This was basically the extent of my relationship with the physiology department.

Looking back, I really can’t remember any specific complaints about the physiology department, aside from a lot of students failing.  However, when I took Neurology there seemed to be many specific complaints regarding the exams.  In ‘Neuro’, peers of mine would try to challenge a question over mistakes such as a really poor black/white photo of a MRI that only a subsection of the class received (I among others received the nice copy).  Students were rarely successful in challenging questions for various reasons including the exam being shredded the day of.  I found the following posts [1,2] helpful in showcasing some of the difficulties in challenging questions as well as why Dr. DeMesquita was so adamant about shredding exams [3]:

“[1] Very true! That horrible picture made me choose the wrong answer! I had the correct answer when I read the stem, but the picture showed the opposite of what the stem was saying and the stem said to base my response on the picture. At the review, I was told that the picture [vaguely] showed something close to the right answer and if i had doubts to ignore the picture and just read the question! truly ridiculous..”

“[2] Even when answers are proven to be wrong with UpToDate print-outs, the department refuses to give back answers. I was told that I should take it as a lesson of what I would see in clinicals, even if the notes never said so.

So basically, my problem was that I couldn’t fast forward time into my clinical years so that I could extrapolate the answer and bring it back into the present to put down on the test.

Thanks, Neuro!”

“[3] As someone said already, I think the shredding is a logical response in light of the fact that exams have been stolen in the past by academically dishonest students.”

If this is true, I can see why the department wants to have such a tight hold on exam material.   Yet I still do not see why every single ‘original exam’ must be shredded the night of the exam or the day after.  Is it too much to ask for a digital copy of the original exam to be made available on the lecture screen at the review or for only one paper copy of it to be stored?  In light of all these legitimate questions, I believe it is reasonable to ask for far greater transparency in the Physiology and Neurology Departments.

Such a call for transparency does not in any way insinuate that Dr. DeMesquita is in fact anything less than a great teacher.  She brings mostly great teachers to AUC and works very hard for the school.  On the other hand, I do not think it is a huge and unreasonable request to have the physiology/neurology department work with the same standards every other department AUC works with.  I do not, for example, think it is too much to ask for tests scores to posted same day on ANGEL like every other department.  Many of the suggested changes suggested on the ValueMD thread could literally happen overnight.  I believe the following post should sum everything else nicely:

“I have no part in the accusations and I am an honor student. I maintain that test records should be stored and accessible to the students for a reasonable amount of time. Keeping these records until graduation is not unreasonable. It is not difficult to establish a secure records room if one does not already exist.

A transparent records process is a protection not only to the student but also to the faculty member. Faculty members can use records for evidence during a grievance hearing just as well as a student can. The school has some protection in holding records on file for a relevant period. Records provide evidence of proper oversight in the event of lawsuits.

Sadly, this person [Dr. DeMesquita] shows no inclination to change without being forced to. We’ve heard she has already requested a secured “partition” on the coming computer-based exam system to which ONLY SHE will have access to. Again, no oversight, no transparency.

This department head could avoid much student ire by simply keeping the records and exam process transparent, being more responsive to the students, and being a little more tactful and considerate in her dealings.

There are some changes needing to be made in how AUC treats its students. I don’t know if it is because my time is ending here or if there really is something in the air, but the student body seems to be growing less and less patient with paying out many tens of thousands of dollars only to be constantly disregarded, taken advantage of, and mistreated.

Changing DM policies is only the beginning. The students are starting to stand up for themselves.”