Academic Counseling

Academic Counseling at UPSOM:  Our System

At UPSOM, we support the academic success of all our learners through a robust academic counseling system, which provides individualized attention to serve the educational needs of our medical students.  We focus on early identification of students who are struggling, so resources can be brought to bear to ensure success.  But every student can benefit from academic counseling, and we provide easy access to broad approaches for different kinds of learners.  This system operates independently from assessment and promotion decisions.

Remember that academic counseling is different from personal counseling (help for psychological problems).  Academic counseling is a form of academic advising focused on learning success (not on professional/career development).

The UPSOM academic counseling system has numerous components with specific roles:



Early Identification

Prior to matriculation, students are given the Myers-Briggs inventory (MBTI) which helps them identify their learning style and how to work successfully with others within the curriculum.  Results are reviewed, material provided, and information may be used later if students struggle.  Some students, especially those who are at-risk for academic challenges, will participate in a prematriculation Prologue course to improve academic readiness—additional student assessments and plans are done during this time.  In the curriculum, we have also increased assessment during the early curriculum—more frequent, lower stakes, generally formative quizzes to help students keep up and identify students who may struggle.

Advisory Deans 

At the beginning of the 1st year, all students are assigned to one of several Advisory Deans who will follow them through their four years, meeting individually twice per year and having multiple group lunches together each year.  AD’s serve as advisors, mentors, and advocates for their students, providing information, feedback and reflection throughout the student’s educational experience.  The AD’s are never in a formal evaluator position with respect to their students. 

FAST Advisors 


MS1s are assigned FAST advising groups which include a faculty member and two MS2s.  The senior students provide a crucial role in academic counseling, guiding MS1s on study strategies, external resource use, and options for local resources.  FAST advisors promote the SARC manual, which includes detailed academic counseling information.  Students will again often reach out to their FAST faculty or senior peers around the time of Step 1 preparation.

Senior Medical Advisor

Laura Jeannerette

A full-time academic counselor is available to assist any student in identifying academic barriers and employing strategies to maximize learning and performance.  This individual performs an analysis of study habits in collaboration with the student, and may initiate and oversee remediation plans.  MS1s/MS2s who receive an unsatisfactory grade in a midcourse or final exam are asked to meet initially with the senior medical advisor and/or the Assistant Dean for Medical Education.  A meeting may lead to referral for study and learning skills assessment and/or assignment of a peer tutor.  The senior medical advisor provides extensive preparatory help for Step 1 study, as well as Step 2CK guidance.  The process of this work is typically longer and deeper than what coaches to, with respect to skill building and learning strategies.  The senior medical advisor can also refer for personal counseling, disability services, or other needs.  Students in all years can receive this academic counseling. 

Assistant Dean for Medical Education

Cynthia Lance-Jones

As an overseer of the 1st and 2nd year curriculum and participant in several courses, Dr. Lance-Jones brings an intimate knowledge of curriculum operation, grading, and curricular goals to the advising of any interested student.  Following an exam failure, a student will be asked to meet with the Assistant Dean for Medical Education to discuss performance expectations and ways to approach the material provided in an individual course.  The student may be secondarily referred to a coach or the Academic Counselor for assessment of learning skills and/or assignment of a peer tutor.  This contact is a common access point for all struggling learners.  The assistant dean will also help students understand grading and the promotions process, working on time-limited skill development and anxiety management as needed.  Some basic content guidance may be offered in these meetings, but students are commonly referred to course faculty for most content questions.

Faculty and Course Directors

To address content questions/concerns, faculty provide group and individual academic counseling.  This includes office hours during courses, review sessions, one-on-one meetings during and after, and remediation help as needed.  Some students are referred.  Any student who fails an exam is expected to meet with a course director.  Longitudinal research project faculty also help students who are struggling with research.

Academic Success Coaching Program

Suzi Templer, DO (Director)

The coaching program was started in 2019 to help struggling students.  Coaches develop longitudinal relationships with MS1-2s, with a behavioral and motivational focus.  Coaches help identify the problem, collaborate on an evidence-based game plan, and then follow up to see if the plan is working.  This accountability facilitates success. 

Assistant Dean for Human-Based Simulation Education

Reed Van Deusen, MD

Dr. Van Deusen is available to provide students with help and advice with clinical skills development (communication, physical exam, procedural). Students requiring remediation are provided with individualized plans involving experienced faculty members and/or standardized patients. 

Scheduled Paracurricular Events

During orientation, all students receive content on study skills, driven by the “Make it Stick” principles of learning.  MS1s have one-on-one check-ins with faculty on academic progress in an end of the year reflection meeting.  Academic success workshops are also offered.

STEP Club (MS1-2)

This peer-run academic success program schedules workshops and activities for MS1-2s with opportunities to test their skills at topic integration, to recognize the importance of spaced learning and self-testing, and to meld the mastering of the curriculum with Step 1 preparation.  Sessions are focused on external resource use, study skills, and approach to content.  The Senior Medical Advisor serves as a liaison with the school.

Collaborative Learning Teams

Nathalie Chen, MSTP

Select courses in MS1-2 have organized group learning, led by senior medical students, to help with content and studying.

Content Mentors

Volunteer senior students are paired with course directors to supplement teaching, running weekly sessions on content to help students with challenging concepts and recommend study approaches.


A pool of MS2-4s are chosen by the Senior Medical Advisor based on their past academic performance and interest in education to serve as tutors for MS1-2s in individual courses.  They deliver study assistance either one-on-one or in small groups.  Groups are set up by content, with students able to walk in at will.  Individual relationships are arranged through the Senior Medical Advisor if a student is at risk of failure.  Tutors focus on building a relationship, external resource use, study habits, and confidence-building, relying on their lived experience as a peer.  Tutoring relationships can continue beyond a specific course, if indicated. 

Other Deans


Various other deans from Student Affairs and the Office of Medical Education are available to meet with students who need or want help.  This includes Drs. Alda Gonzaga, Chenits Pettigrew, Raquel Buranosky, and Jason Rosenstock.  These individuals frequently meet with students to talk about academic performance and to provide guidance and support.

Disability Services

Laura Jeannerette is the school’s coordinator for disability services.  She is the contact point for students who need assessment or resources, working closely with Leigh Culley and the university Office of Disability Resources and Services.  Students are confidentially provided supports needed for academic success, with specific accommodation plans developed as needed.  Curriculum specialists, the Assessment Coordinator, and various deans will implement these plans for assessments and learning throughout the curriculum.

Any of these resources can refer students to other resources depending on the need.  Students can think about their:


Then contact…

Disability issue

Senior Medical Advisor (Laura Jeannerette)

Tutoring need

Senior Medical Advisor (Laura Jeannerette)

Test Prep Services  (Step 1 remediation)

Senior Medical Advisor (Laura Jeannerette)

Content problem

Course faculty (course/clerkship director)

External resource use

STEP Club, FAST peer, SARC, etc.

Clinical Skills issues

(OSCEs, communication, exam, procedures)

Asst Dean for Human-Based Simulation

(Dr. Reed Van Deusen)

Exam Failure (MS3-4)

Clerkship directors, or…

Asst Dean for Clinical Education

(Dr. Raquel Buranosky)

Exam Failure (MS1-2)

Course directors, or…

Asst Dean for Medical Education

(Dr. Cynthia Lance-Jones)