UPSOM Student Town Hall Meeting Highlights 4/1/2021

Town Hall Highlights
April 1, 2021

Elevated Risk Posture

Pitt moved back to the Elevated Risk posture on March 30 at 9pm along with a shelter in place order.  This is meant more for extracurriculars.  The school remains open for study, in-person learning opportunities, and clinical activities.  For non-educational activities (enrichment activities, FAST groups, etc.), the school feels that if you are immunized, you need to only follow the CDC guidelines.  Please remain masked, maintain social distancing, and have good hand hygiene during these activities.  For those who have not been immunized, you should follow the University’s guidelines to shelter in place, particularly for non-educational activities.

Events Updates

  • The Pinning Ceremony will be in person at the Pete and will be socially distanced and require a mask.No guests will be permitted but a streaming option will be available.
  • The Humanism Honor Society dinner that precedes the Pinning Ceremony will be in-person and out of door.
  • Graduation will be held in person at the Pete and will be socially distanced and require a mask.Two guests per student will be permitted at this event.

Match Day

There are 150 seniors on the SOM Class of 2021 distribution list however not all of those students are graduating seniors.  The number of graduate seniors is 138, two of whom are OMFS students.  135 students entered the Match and 129 matched.  This gives us a match rate of 96% (pre-SOAP) which is well above of the national average of 92.8%.  All students who did not match would well supported by the Office of Student Affairs – all of the advisory deans came into the office as well as half of the staff.  The Office continues to work with students who do not have definitive plans. 

US News and World Report

UPSOM moved up one spot from 14 to 13 in research focused schools.  Many people have been troubled by our dramatic fall in rankings in primary case focused institutions, as we are now at 34.  A huge fraction of that ranking is related to what students choose to do after medical school.  A major component of that is how many students go into residency in medicine, pediatrics, or family medicine.  This year a new piece was added which asked how many graduated from 2012-2014 are still in primary care.  Many of our students go into medicine or pediatrics with every intention of becoming a subspecialist.  We also have a larger percent of every class that chooses to go into surgical subspecialties or areas other than primary care.  These reasons explain why we are now ranked 34 in primary care focused schools.  Dr. Shekhar would like to see us be highly ranked in both areas but it is not clear how much control we have based on how these rankings are being assessed.


A study was done 6-8 months ago about bias in grading however the results were inconclusive.  Therefore, under the direction of Drs. Ufomata and Thompson, this study will be done in a different way, involving other institutions and looking at disaggregated, meaningful data.  We will use more recent data (from the three most recent graduating classes) and will de-identify the data as complete individual sets for each student, which included their clerkship grades, shelf exam scores, USMLE score, and comments they received on clerkships.  We will do natural language processing on the comments to note language frequencies and also the sentiments behind the words that are used to describe students and compare those comments to their clerkship grades as well as their grades on standardized tests.

We also started Clerkship Grading Evaluation Subgroup 6-8 months ago that meets 1-2 times a month with emails between; it has completed its report which was sent to the clerkship directors to come up with additional ideas for standardization transparency.  This is a large subgroup made up of clerkship directors, administrators, staff, and students that has spent time looking at national and internal data and came up with a long list of where gaps are present.  The group also came up with ideas of how to standardize to the point where things are somewhat standardized across the clerkships but allowing for some differences that enable them to highlight the skill sets they are trying to teach.  Finally the group looked at the transparency of evaluations and the standardization of feedback. 

There is a big question of whether we are going pass/fail.  Pass/fail has advantages to decreasing bias but it has also been shown to possibly have other issues and lead to unintended consequences.  We have been involved with our 13 peer schools and have been looking at pass/fail grading versus tiered grading.  Many institutions went to pass/fail during COVID so there are a lot of lessons learned – some will remain pass/fail but the majority will go back to their previous grading scale. 

The Derek Chauvin Trail and Anti-Asian Violence

The School of Medicine is here to talk with you and to support each other during these difficult and relentless events.  The University has resources on their website regarding coping or program to help cope with racial trauma and our school’s entire mental health team is here and ready to work with all of you.

We are rolling out a Feel Safer Initiative which will provide you with all of the information and phone numbers you need along with helpful tips.  We will also suggest phone numbers to keep on speed dial and will emphasize care and support opportunities that exist.  We will be able respond organically to tense moments, either in person or via zoom.  We also want you to have some information about situational awareness so you can be mindful of protecting yourself as you go through your normal experiences.

We will also be putting together a media presentation about many of the hidden communities in Pittsburgh that we don’t necessarily see or feel around us.  We want to highlight these communities that we really don’t see visibly but have made robust contributions to the environment in which you live, practice, and learn.  If you have an interest in being part of this or if you are from Pittsburgh and have some hidden history to contribute, please email Dr. Pettigrew.