Written by Alyssa Walker

Your doctor may have skipped a lot of medical school classes. Why?

They can watch the lectures at home, on their own terms, often in their pajamas. They are also almost entirely focused on Step 1, the first exam in a series required for licensure.

But why would you skip classes when you are paying upwards of $60,000 per year? Why would you focus solely on a test when there is so much more to know?

According to STAT News, "Nationally, nearly one-quarter of second-year medical students reported last year that they “almost never” attended class during their first two, preclinical years, a 5 percent increase from 2015." 

STAT News interviewed Lawrence Wang, a third-year M.D.-PhD student at the University of California, San Diego, and the National Institutes of Health, who said that he relied heavily on online videos and quizzes to get through the first two years of medical school. 

He said, “There were times that I didn’t go to a single class, and then I’d get to the actual exam and it would be my first time seeing the professor. Especially, when Step [1] was coming up, I pretty much completely focused on studying outside materials.”

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Wang is not alone. Nearly one-quarter of medical students watch or interact with some outside online source as part of their daily medical education.

What are medical schools doing to fix the problem and encourage students to attend classes?

Some bigger schools have eliminated lectures. Students learn the course content at home and then attend required small group sessions where they apply what they have learned.

Other schools are taking a more hybrid approach, enforcing required attendance at small group sessions in conjunction with some lectures and other activities.

Your takeaway: medical schools are working to make content more accessible, with multiple opportunities for application and in-depth study.

Learn more about medical school

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.
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