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MD Program Graduation Requirements/Honors

Candidates for graduation in the MD Program must:

  1. Satisfactorily complete the required and elective curriculum.
  2. Remediate any academic deficiencies incurred.
  3. Be in good standing.
  4. Pass Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) in order to progress into the clinical years.
  5. All students must PASS Step 2 CS and CK to graduate.
  6. Pass Upstate's Comprehensive Clinical Skills Examination (CSE).
  7. Satisfy all financial obligations due to the Upstate Medical University, including at least eight semesters of tuition (except transfer students and students admitted with advance standing who must pay two semesters of tuition for every year of medical education completed at Upstate Medical University).

Please refer to the Academic Catalog for more specific information on courses and electives. http://www.upstate.edu/currentstudents/document/academic_catalog.pdf

Pathway to Medical Licensure and the USMLE

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) have established a single series of examinations for medical licensure in the United States called the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). There are three USMLE Step examinations, each of which includes a computer-based test (CBT). Step 2 has two components, a computer-based Clinical Knowledge (CK) exam as well as a Clinical Skills (CS) examination. Passing scores on both components are required to have passed Step 2. In total there are four separate testing exercises that comprise the USMLE licensing examination.

Step 1 - Assesses whether you can apply the knowledge and understanding of key concepts of basic biomedical science, with an emphasis on principles and mechanisms of health, disease, and modes of therapy.

Step 2 - (CK) Assesses whether you can apply the medical knowledge and understanding of clinical science considered essential for the provision of patient care under supervision, including emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention.

Step 2 - (CS) It is a test of clinical skills (history, physical, communication, diagnostic, and management skills) which is carried out on 10-12 simulated patients over the course of a day. Testing will take place at one of five centers (the nearest in Philadelphia). A night’s stay-over in the city where the examination is taken will be necessary in most cases.

Step 3 - Assesses whether you can apply the medical knowledge and understanding of biomedical and clinical science considered essential for the unsupervised practice of medicine, with emphasis on patient management in ambulatory settings. This exam is typically taken during the first year of residency.

The USMLE program recommends that licensing authorities establish as an eligibility requirement for Step 3 the completion, or near completion of, at least one postgraduate training year in a program of graduate medical education accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. You should contact the jurisdiction where you intend to take Step 3 for eligibility requirements.

To practice medicine in New York State, students will have successfully completed the curriculum and received the degree of Doctor of Medicine, completed at least one year of post-graduate hospital training (one year of residency), and passed all three steps of the USMLE licensing examination.

Policy on USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CS and CK Exams

USMLE Step 1

Upstate Medical University College of Medicine requires that all students pass USMLE Step 1 before entering the clinical years. Some designated study and preparatory time is allotted between the end of second year final examinations and the deadline to sit for USMLE Step 1. The deadline varies slightly from year to year and the exact date is published annually in the Upstate Medical University Academic Calendar. Because there is a delay of approximately four weeks from sitting for the examination and scores being reported, students are allowed to provisionally start clerkships pending the posting of a passing score. Any exception to this policy requires prior approval from the Academic Review Board or a Curriculum Dean.

  1. All students must sit for the USMLE Step 1 by the date published annually in the Upstate Medical University Academic Calendar. Failure to sit for the examination by this deadline may result in a professionalism concern note being filed with the University Judicial Coordinator.
  2. If a student does not post a passing score on the USMLE Step 1 by the end of the first clerkship rotation, they will not be allowed to start any subsequent clerkship until reviewed by the Academic Review Board.
  3. If during the first clerkship the student learns that they did not pass the exam, the student will be pulled from that clerkship and all subsequent block clerkships. A grade of "Incomplete" will be recorded for the first clerkship. They will be placed in an independent study program. The independent study program maintains the status as an enrolled student while providing the time to thoroughly prepare to retake the USMLE Step 1 exam. Student should remain in longitudinal clerkships until reviewed by the Academic Review Board, at which time a decision will be made about continued enrollment.
  4. All student failures will be reviewed by the Academic Review Board and a deadline to sit for a repeat exam will be determined. After sitting for the repeat exam, the student may reenter clerkships pending clerkship availability. It must be recognized that failure of the USMLE Step 1 exam may delay graduation.
  5. Failure to post a passing score on a second attempt will require that the student is pulled from all clerkship responsibilities, block or otherwise, and enrolled in the independent study program a second time. After the Academic Review Board determines the deadline for the second attempt, the student will not be allowed to restart clerkships until a passing score is posted. Reentering clerkships after posting a passing score is again subject to clerkship availability.
  6. Failure to record a passing score on USMLE Step 1 by the third attempt, or within one year after finishing preclinical years of study (excluding leaves of absence) will result in dismissal from the College of Medicine.

All transfer students entering the College of Medicine in the MS3 year must record a passing score for USMLE Step 1 prior to being enrolled as a matriculant.

USMLE Step 2 CK and CS

Upstate Medical University College of Medicine requires that all students pass Step 2 CS and CK to graduate. Students must sit for both exams by December 1st of their 4th year. Any exception to this policy requires prior approval of the Academic Review Board or a Curriculum Dean.

  1. Students who fail to pass either Step 2 CK or CS will be subject to withdrawal from the National Resident Matching Program.
  2. All student failures will be reviewed by the Academic Review Board.
  3. Failure to record a passing score on Step 2 CK and CS by the third attempt, or within one year after the original December 1st deadline, will result in dismissal from the College of Medicine.

USMLE and Transcripts

USMLE scores are not a component of the transcript and are not released by the school. Students should retain their scores; many residency programs will accept copies of the USMLE scores. Official copies must be requested from the National Board of Medical Examiners.

Clinical Skills Exam

All students are required to take and pass a Clinical Skills Examination (CSE) at the beginning of the fourth year of medical school to assess the core clinical skills of communication, data collection (history and physical exam), and clinical reasoning (differential diagnosis, diagnostic therapeutic plan). A passing score on this exam is required for graduation. Failure of this exam requires remediation, which may include retaking the exam.

Graduation Honors

A student will be eligible to graduate "Cum Laude" when a student has accumulated 48 credits of honors in the clinical years.

Regardless of other academic achievements, a student may not graduate with honors if the transcript records any violations of the Student Code of Conduct or if there have been concerns about unprofessional behavior.

Alpha Omega Alpha

Alpha Omega Alpha (AOA) is the national honor society for medical students. The three Greek letters AOA are initials of the essential words in the Greek version of the motto "Be worthy to serve the suffering."

Alpha Omega Alpha is "dedicated to the belief that in the profession of medicine we will improve care for all by: recognizing high educational achievement; honoring gifted teaching; encouraging the development of leaders in academia and the community; supporting the ideals of humanism; and promoting service to others."*

The values of the organization include "...honesty, honorable conduct, morality, virtue, unselfishness, ethical ideals, dedication to serving others, and leadership. Members have a compelling drive to do well and to advance the medical profession and exemplify the highest standards of professionalism."*

Representative activities of the Upstate Gamma Chapter in recent years include:

  1. Establishment and support of annual Student Research Day.
  2. Sponsorship of an annual AOA Visiting Professor.
  3. Academic support for undergraduates, including tutoring, review sessions prior to exams in the first two years, USMLE prep.
  4. Establishment and support of a student Clerkship Liaison program, a resource to clerkship students and directors.
  5. Establishment and sponsorship of the Helping Hands for Forgotten Feet Clinic.
  6. Leadership training for medical students at all levels.

Chapter members are actively engaged in ongoing leadership, scholarship, and service activities, and membership criteria are designed to support this active engagement.

Criteria for Selection to AOA

Criteria for membership established by the national organization include high academic standing, "...leadership among ...peers, professionalism and a firm sense of ethics, promise of future success in medicine, and a commitment to service in the school and community. By adherence to these criteria...the highest ranked students by grade point average [are not always] elected to the society."* A requirement of membership in the Upstate Gamma Chapter is full participation in chapter activities from election until graduation, including a minimum of 40 hours tutoring undergraduate medical students.

The process of electing students to the Upstate Gamma Chapter of AOA is based on national guidelines and is further refined by chapter members:

  1. Per national AOA guidelines, students whose academic performance is in the top 25% of the class are eligible for election, up to 1/6 of the class (17%) may be elected, and up to half may be elected in the junior year. At Upstate Medical University, students in the top 15% of the class (determined by grades in required courses and clerkships in years 1-3) are invited to apply in the junior year and students in the top 25% are invited to apply in the senior year, after screening for any concerns regarding professional behavior and academic misconduct.
  2. The application form provides a template for students to submit information about their leadership, scholarship and service, and an essay. Election is determined by a process that weights clerkship performance (approximately 30%), USMLE Step 1 scores (approximately 30%) and leadership, scholarship and service (combined 40%).
  3. Applications are blinded and scored by AOA members using a rubric to evaluate the leadership, scholarship and service components of the candidates.

The chapter reviews the election criteria and weighting every year and makes periodic adjustments according to national recommendations for best practices and input from chapter members and the college dean. While specific weighting may change over the course of a student's enrollment, the emphasis on academic performance, leadership, scholarship and service will not change.

For questions please contact Patricia Gooden, the Upstate Gamma Chapter staff administrator, or chapter councilor, Dr. Lynn Cleary, at (315) 464-5387.

Gold Humanism Honor Society

The Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) "honors medical students, residents, role-model physician teachers and other examplars recognized for demonstrated excellence in clinical care, leadership, compassion, and dedication to service." This national society was established "to elevate the values of humanism and professionalism within the field of medicine."

Up to 15% of the senior class may be elected to each GHHS chapter. At Upstate Medical University, students are nominated and elected by peers at the end of the third year clerkship. Transfer students are eligible and subject to the same nomination and election process that is in place for non-transfer students.