Educational Support Services

General Information

What is the role of the Office of Educational Support Services (OESS) within the medical and pharmacy schools?

The goal of the OESS is to help students maximize their comprehension and retention of information critical to their education and develop life-long learning skills. To further this goal, the OESS provides academic assistance to UCSD medical and pharmacy students in most first-year SOM core courses. OESS staff members coordinate this assistance with the faculty of these courses and also support the faculty in their educational goals. In addition, OESS staff members have a teaching role in many of the core courses, serving as facilitators for small-group discussion sessions and laboratories, assisting with team-based learning sessions, and presenting lectures.

Four full-time academic staff members combine expertise in specific subjects with proficiency in helping students to develop optimal study strategies. Contact information and areas of expertise for Nora Laiken, April Apperson, Steve Schneid, and Paul Kingston are provided under staff by name on the Contact Information page.

Carrie Owen, the administrative coordinator (see staff by name), provides support for the academic staff and assists students who wish to take advantage of the services provided by the OESS.

In some courses, medical or graduate students with prior research and/or teaching experience; residents; and post-doctoral fellows are hired as part-time tutors and work with OESS's full-time staff to insure that all medical and pharmacy students get the academic assistance that they need. Assistance is available without charge to all UCSD medical students and pharmacy students.

How do I get help in a SOM core course?

Any student concerned about or experiencing difficulties in one of the core courses supported by the OESS is encouraged to request assistance at any time during the quarter by contacting an academic staff member with expertise in that subject. The staff members to contact for specific courses are listed under the appropriate quarter – fall, winter, or spring. Contact information is provided under staff by name on the Contact Information page,or students can simply stop by the OESS, which is located in Room 1208 in the Biomedical Sciences Building (map). All OESS staff members welcome "drop ins" (at any time except during scheduled course sessions) and will see students right away if they are available.

Can I get help in preparing for the USMLE, Step 1?

Academic assistance also is available for second-year medical students preparing for Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), which must be taken at the end of the second year. OESS staff members will offer reviews of specific first-year subjects when there is sufficient student interest.

How can I get an amazing head start? Core Topics in Biomedical Sciences during the summer!

OESS offers an optional summer course, Core Topics in Biomedical Sciences (CTBS),  to all students admitted to the UCSD School of Medicine (SOM) or Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (SSPPS). This eight-week course focuses on the basic science areas most challenging in the first-year SOM curriculum, with an emphasis on cardiovascular and autonomic physiology, immunology, and molecular biology. The CTBS course also emphasizes the development of the study and time-management skills needed to adapt to the rigors of the SOM curriculum.

Although the CTBS course is offered to all students who have been accepted into the UCSD SOM or SSPPS, those with educationally diverse backgrounds are especially encouraged to attend (SSPPS students are encouraged to attend prior to their second year).  A significant number of students accepted into the UCSD SOM and SSPPS have majors outside of the biological sciences or chemistry, and many have been away from full-time study for a year or more. The CTBS course can ease the transition for these students into the intense basic science courses of the first-year SOM curriculum. 

What other services or support does the OESS provide?

Physicians and pharmacists, as well as medical and pharmacy students, are constantly exposed to virtually unlimited amounts of information, and are expected to filter out the relevant portions and integrate them with their existing knowledge. Developing and honing study techniques is crucial to this process, and OESS staff members assist medical and pharmacy students in developing active, effective study strategies. An online guide to active study techniques and frequently asked questions (FAQs) on active studying and test-taking are available for students to read and review whenever they wish.

OESS maintains a small lending library of donated books helpful for the first- and second-year SOM curriculum. The library is maintained by Carrie Owen in the OESS, which is located in Room 1208 in the Biomedical Sciences Building (map).

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