Council Minutes for October 2011:

Persons in Attendence:

Vijay Pandyarajan, Meredith Sorenson, Tom Richardson, Heather Connelly, Zach Nevin, Pam Marcott, Gloria Tavera, Abner Murray, Kirkland Wilson, Teresa Evans, Anna Henry, Alex Tong, Charlie Wang, Marisa Winkler, Emily Hamburg, Jeff Krimmel, Grant Zimmerman, Joe Vithayathil, Andrew Lavik, Paul Lin, DaShawn Hickman, Cliff Harding



October 11, 2011



1.     Summer Retreat Committee

2.     Winter Retreat

3.     First interview session feedback

4.     Monthly meeting

5.     Social Committee

6.     Women’s Group

7.     Representative to CME

8.     Representative to GSS

9.     Representative to BGSO


Summer Retreat Committee:

Anna informed Council that summer retreat plans are coming along well.  This year, July 4 is a Wednesday, and so possible retreat dates include July 5-6 or July 9-10.  Vijay stated that this year the M1 orientation is going to start July 11.  Council thus favors July 9-10, immediately preceding orientation, to avoid any overlap with the July 4 holiday.


Pam reported that the main summer retreat venue choices include Punderson and Geneva.  Vijay proposed Kalahari as another option, indicating that the Pharmacology Department uses that venue for retreats.  Emily said that Punderson does not have as good of water activities, but does provide outdoor activities for time outside of the scientific program.  Additionally, there is more space for us to use, and therefore evening conviviality does not run as much of a risk of disturbing other guests.  Cliff also indicated the presence of a very nice chalet for conviviality.  Vijay suggested we hold Punderson as our first choice for now, with Geneva second.  Cliff reminded Council and the Summer Retreat Committee that the choice should be made soon, certainly by the next Council meeting, to lock in our preferred dates and reserve enough rooms and conference space.


Anna also reminded the MSTP to generate nominations for potential keynote speakers.  Council requested that Kathy send a dedicated email soliciting speaker ideas.  Cliff has given the Summer Retreat Committee a list of MSTP program directors that would give good talks about their research as well as MSTP career advice.  Heather appreciated the career-oriented talk given by last year’s keynote speaker, Dr. Skip Brass.  Vijay stated that we should make a decision on our speaker choice soon, since these individuals are often busy and difficult to book.  Anna stated that the Summer Retreat Committee will generate a list of names by next Council meeting, and Council will generate a ranked list at the November meeting in order to send out invitations.


Cliff then asked Council to consider making any changes to the summer retreat program.  He outlined our program from recent years, including internal faculty talks, the keynote address, technical workshops, MSTP Council reports, first-year orientation, and the dinner seminar on the first day, and student transition panels, student research seminars, and additional workshops on the second day.  In particular, Cliff pointed out the need to organize the first day’s schedule around the keynote, to allow time for the talk and for the speaker to interact with students, and for the speaker to be able to depart the same day if need be.  Cliff also stated that in addition to scientific technique workshops, he prefers to keep the grant writing and ethics workshops in regular rotation at the summer retreat, but will leave it up to Council to decide on the topics of workshops in any given year.  With regards to student-run sessions, typically it is challenging to schedule M3 or M4 students to come to the retreat and offer the med school and residency transition panel, however Vijay stated that it is always possible to schedule these panels, and that some students invariably are able to come and present their experiences.  Cliff also mentioned that three or four MSTP students who are far into their PhD phase are asked to present at the summer retreat, usually in lieu of presenting at the winter retreat.  Anna asked when the final agenda should be organized, and when any decisions on changing the agenda should be made.  Vijay replied that the agenda would be finalized in spring, but with priority on scheduling the keynote speaker.  Joe added that the agenda should accommodate last-minute changes as well.


Winter retreat:

Vijay reported that the winter retreat invited speaker is Dr. Peter Arvan.  He will present his research on protein folding and vesicular packaging of peptide hormones.  He is also a former MSTP and will talk about life after being an MSTP student.  This year is the 55th anniversary of the Case MSTP, and Cliff would like to invite the former MSTP program director and emeritus professor Dr. Leslie Webster to attend the winter retreat.  Vijay added that Dr. Webster also endowed the MSTP student travel fund, and that he remains very interested in current student research and is still connected to the program in this way.  Cliff feels that the MSTP has not appropriately thanked Dr. Webster, and would like to include him in this winter retreat.


Cliff also stated that the MSTP has a well-developed program for the winter retreat, and that there is no need to change the agenda as there may be for the summer retreat.  Vijay inquired as to whether MSTP will continue inviting associated programs to the winter retreat.  Cliff replied that last year he thought it would be good to reach out to other research-oriented and dual degree programs in the School of Medicine.  There are also a small number of students affiliated with the MSTP pursuing DNP/PhD and DMD/PhD degree programs.  Also, there are MD/MS students and other research-focused MD students.  Including all these student researchers in the MSTP winter retreat would be beneficial for all programs to share their research activities.  It is beneficial to the MSTP to reach out collaboratively to other research programs, without impacting the MSTP focus of the winter retreat program.


Feedback from the first MSTP interview visit:

Kathy asked Anna to raise a particular issue with Council.  Some applicants at this recent interview visit reported an incident where they felt the role of women in the Case MSTP was represented poorly.  Anna stated that to rectify this situation, the role of the women’s group in the interview process should be enhanced, including at Second Look.  Marisa shared a concern that some applicants would get a negative impression of the role of Case MSTP women by reviewing class rosters.  Emily shared that a previous applicant who stayed with her was distressed by her perception of fewer numbers of women among the list of MSTP thesis mentors, as compared to other institutions.  Gloria mentioned some very positive application experiences at the Case MSTP, featuring women in science including Dr. Alison Hall.  Heather asked Council whether the MSTP should work towards damage control for this recent incident.  Anna and Teresa disagreed, stating that reminding the recent group of applicants about a negative experience would not be proper for the program.  Emily felt that this group of applicants would go on to many other interviews and not think about this incident much again.  Cliff was very pleased that Council is taking an active role in addressing this matter.  He stated that he has already intervened to ensure this particular incident is not repeated.


Gloria suggested integrating the women’s group more into the interview sessions.  Teresa stated that the role of the women’s group has been most prominent at Second Look.  Meredith recalled that at most the women’s group is mentioned during the interview visits, but that it does not engage formally in the interview program.  Tom suggested including a short letter containing information about MSTP Council, student activities generally, and the activities of the women’s group specifically in the applicants’ interview packets.  Marisa agreed with this approach, and Meredith agreed adding that the letter should be accompanied by mention of the women’s group during the larger introduction to the Case MSTP.  Cliff felt the letter would be easy to implement and would be a welcome addition to the current curriculum-oriented interview packet.  Gloria also liked the letter approach, adding that a written letter would be much easier to organize than an in-person women’s group check out session during each interview visit, and would be less taxing on the applicants.  DaShawn described the check out session as process included in the MD interview sessions for underrepresented minority applicants to ask questions and give feedback on the interview day.  Gloria also added that it would be beneficial to women applicants to pair them with women MSTP overnight hosts and women faculty members for their interviews.


Additionally, DaShawn stated that it would improve the interview process if students would come to pick applicants up from interviews and walk them to their next interviews, so that they would not get lost or have to wait on others for building access.  Marisa added that this approach would also help applicants wrap up interviews in a timely manner, if there is a student designated to arrive at the end of each faculty interview.


October monthly meeting:

Charlie would like to coordinate the PhD 1 monthly meeting with the next interview session.  Council approved of this change, provided a “fun speaker” could be arranged for the applicants.  Emily suggested the Allen Memorial Library medical museum curator.  Cliff stated that the curator, Dr. James Edmonson, last did monthly meeting eight or nine years ago.  Heather also suggested we invite one of the Music and Medicine speakers, for either the October or November monthly meeting.


Social committee:

Gloria reported a strong response to the MSTP activities survey.  The next event will be the Great Lakes brewery tour, which is nearly full.  This event will be Tuesday November 15 from 6:00-6:45 p.m., with students arriving by 5:45 preferably.  Gloria reminds all who signed up to please attend!  The Social Committee can add on another date if there is tremendous demand.  The MSTP is covering the costs for the tour and two tastings, and if students wish to stay for dinner at Great Lakes they will need to bring extra money.  Gloria can organize a private room for all tour attendees for dinner, or people can do separate tables.  Also, a spreadsheet for organizing carpools is forthcoming.


The winter party will be held again at the College Club, and the Social Committee is working on a date sometime in early December.  There will be a white elephant exchange and baked goods contest as before.


Whirly ball was another popular activity choice.  The court will cost $150 to rent.  Thus, the Social Committee will need to wait until after interview season in February to schedule whirly ball, to ensure there is money in this year’s budget.


Women’s group:

Marisa is willing to coordinate with the women’s group advisor, Dr. Marion Skalweit, since she works next door to her.  Teresa stated that the next meeting with Marion is next week.  The women’s group will discuss the proposed women’s group letter to be included in the interviewee packets.


Representative to CME:

Joe reported that the CME has decided to adopt a 10-year timeline for completing steps 1, 2, and 3, consistent with current Ohio law requiring all USMLE steps be completed within 10 years.  Step 3 is taken during the intern year, the first year following graduation from medical school.  Zach stated that this timeline would therefore require a maximum of six years in the PhD phase.  Cliff stated that this is a national issue, as most states have a 7-year rule that can be extended to 10 years for MD/PhD students.  Typically, if a Case MSTP student needs to invoke the extension to 10 years, the MSTP and School of Medicine registrar can write on the student’s behalf to get the extension approved.  The MSTP letter to the Society Deans for inclusion in the dean’s letter includes wording to facilitate the extension.  Heather asked about an additional issue, students who take time off during the PhD phase, especially women starting a family.  Anna also inquired about other extenuating circumstances, such as illness.  Tom stated that this issue originally came up because CME was trying to impose passage of steps 1 and 2 within a certain amount of time as a graduation requirement for the CWRU MD program.  Joe stated that this was the case, but since Ohio law takes precedence over School of Medicine policy the CME was willing to adopt the Ohio timeframe for the 10-year rule.


Representative to GSS:

Tom stated that GSS is currently developing initiatives for the year, and further updates are forthcoming.  Gloria reminded everyone that the GSS is sponsoring a screening of the PhD Comics movie on Thursday October 13.


Representative to BGSO:

Grant reported several events coming up.  October 22 is the Falloween Festival at Metro, November 9 is a pizza lunch and seminar on choosing a thesis lab, November 12 is the Case Saturday service event, November 14 is the School of Medicine blood drive, in early-mid November there will be a professional development workshop featuring a forensic scientist, and TBA in the future BGSO will have an Endnote workshop.  Finally, the BGSO is sponsoring a new ethics course that will be developed in part by two student volunteers in coordination with faculty members Mike Harris and Dave McDonald.


Other business:


Pam requested home buying advice for younger students.  Zach offered that a meeting would be better than a written document, since the home market changes frequently.  Teresa stated that Cleveland Heights sponsors a good workshop, every 6 weeks at the courthouse.  The workshop reviews much of the important paperwork.  Emily also stated that University Circle sponsors a course attached to its homeowner credit program, which takes applicants through the process to find homes and get funding assistance.  Vijay asked whether it would be helpful to do a dinner session.  Pam would like this, and would like homeowner students to discuss when did they started looking, highlights from the process, important things to know, and any tips and tricks.  Gloria also would like to invite a realtor to this dinner event.  Pam suggested that the M1 class representative organize the session on behalf of the first years, and that the first years coordinate upperclassmen and Jeff (the realtor) as well as Cleveland Heights homeowners’ information.



Action items


All students with ideas for summer retreat speakers should communicate them to the Summer Retreat Committee.


The women’s group will draft a letter addressing women’s issues to include with applicants’ information packets at future interview sessions.


The Executive Committee will draft an additional letter addressing functions of MSTP Council and student activities for the applicants’ packets.



Next MSTP Council meeting: Tuesday November 8, 5:45 p.m.


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