University News

Policy change rankles PLMEs

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, November 9, 2009

Students enrolled in the Program in Liberal Medical Education who apply to medical schools other than Brown’s will forfeit the spots reserved for them, according to a new policy enacted this week.

PLMEs received an e-mail and a letter in their mailboxes on Wednesday informing them of the change. Starting with the class of MD applicants who hope to begin in 2011, students must inform the PLME office by Sept. 15 of their senior year — or each year they are on deferral — if they intend to “apply out.” By applying to other medical schools, they forfeit their spots at Alpert Medical School, although they may re-apply to the Med School by the standard process.

Previously, there was no policy that addressed applying out, according to Associate Dean of Medicine Philip Gruppuso. “It was never an issue,” he said, because usually no more than one student per year applied out.

However, around five students from the undergraduate class of 2010 are sending applications elsewhere, Gruppuso said, and administrators anticipate similar numbers from the class of 2011. Each year, the University enrolls about 50 PLMEs. Incoming Med School classes total around 100 students.

According to Gruppuso, the policy was added so that Med School admissions officers could have a clearer picture of how many spots would be available in the class.

“This is totally about our needing to fill the medical school class,” Gruppuso said. “We’re not trying to manipulate the careers of the PLME students.”

Students applying to medical school can normally accept a spot at one school while remaining on the waitlist for several others. A place on the waitlist can open up as late as the day before orientation, and students have the option to accept it, leaving the rejected school scrambling to fill the spot. Guaranteeing PLMEs a spot while allowing them to apply out, Gruppuso said, would effectively allow them to make Brown their “safety school.”

Gruppuso said the Med School receives between 70 and 80 applications for each spot in the class, and “for every two students who inject uncertainty into the program … we need another interview day.”

“It actually just became a necessity for us to be able to fill our medical school class,” Gruppuso said.

But current PLME undergraduates, who won’t be granted exceptions, feel the policy violates the conditions under which they entered the program, according to Arune Gulati ’11, who serves on the PLME Senate.

Gulati said the policy, if enacted, should apply only to incoming classes and not to students who entered the program before the change. He said many PLME students — who may have also applied to similar programs at other schools — made their decisions based on the program’s leniency.

“The policy makes a lot of sense for the medical school, and I definitely see where they’re coming from,” Gulati said. But now, he added, “they’ve changed the whole game.”

Gulati added that some students apply out in order to weigh their options for financial aid.
The change is especially frustrating, he said, for fifth-semester juniors who have already prepared to apply out by taking second-semester organic chemistry and paying to take MCAT courses, neither of which are required by the PLME guidelines.

“It would make perfect sense if people being admitted to the program knew about the policy beforehand,” Gulati said.

“It should not have to affect the classes who are already here,” said Dominic Wu ’12, a class representative to the PLME Senate. Wu is not planning to apply out, but he collected the opinions of several PLME students and included them in an e-mail to Associate Dean of Medicine Julianne Ip, who sent out the notification letters.

Ip forwarded the e-mail to Gruppuso, who said he plans to meet with a group of juniors and hold a town-hall meeting with first-years and sophomores.

Wu said he invited his classmates to come and voice their opinions at the next PLME Senate meeting on Sunday.