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UMBC: a small campus doing big things

Although UMBC is a small university, it is taking big steps towards providing the strongest education possible for its students.  Discovery and discussion sections are effective team-based learning environments that supplement the traditional lecture-based teaching. Additionally, UMBC has taken more steps to further strengthen its curriculum.

BIOL 487: Medical Case Studies is one of these major steps. This non-traditional course is being implemented for the first time this semester and is being taught by Dr. Jeff Leips, a biology professor, and Dr. Kathleen Hoffman, a math professor. The course utilizes case studies in order to teach students how to apply their knowledge in an interdisciplinary manner.

“This class provides an opportunity for students to learn on their own and interact with a diverse range of experts instead of learning from just one professor,” said Leips. There are no lectures, just professors to guide you while your team researches the necessary information to solve and understand the case.

UMBC is one of four universities that was selected to participate in this course, which is funded by a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant. While working in collaboration with the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, students have the opportunity to interact with and ask questions to an expert in the field pertaining to the case study.

This course was created in order to enhance incoming medical school students’ abilities to apply their knowledge of the core science and math topics in an interdisciplinary manner. Based off of a study that the American Association of Medical Schools did with HHMI, a course was created, which they believed was an effective model in teaching interdisciplinary sciences in hopes of educating pre-medical students with strong scientific foundations.

The innovative changes that are being implemented at UMBC aim to address the few weaknesses present in the curriculum. Tei Le, a senior biology major who is taking BIOL 487, states that, “Many of the pre-requisite courses that you first take help build foundations and concepts, but classes like Medical Case Studies help you use the knowledge you learn and use them in real-life scenarios. I believe that there should be more upper level courses like these to help challenge you and help apply what you’ve learned in previous courses.”

It would benefit the student body greatly if discussion sections slowly started to add this type of individualistic and interdisciplinary teaching style. “I think it’s important for UMBC to incorporate these types of classes because it would give students some insight as to what they want to do in their lives before they actually pursue it. I actually get to encounter what it is that doctors face within their daily lives,” said Precious Achikeh, a senior biology major who is also currently taking the course. “I think it will prepare me for the challenges I will face because it requires a deeper level of thought processes that we often times don’t get to use in our other classes.”

As the years have progressed, many changes have been implemented to improve the learning environment. It is evident that UMBC will continue to reshape its curriculum in order to accommodate students with the skills they will need in the real world.