ABSTRACT: Building learning communities: evolution of the colleges at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Learning communities, which are an emerging trend in medical education, create a foundation for professional and academic development through the establishment of longitudinal relationships between students and faculty. In this article, the authors describe the robust learning community system at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, which encompasses wellness, career planning, professional development, and academics.The Vanderbilt Advisory Colleges Program introduced in 2006 initially focused on two goals: promoting wellness and providing career advising. In the 2011-2012 academic year, the focus of the colleges expanded to incorporate an enhanced level of personal career advising and an academic component. In the four-year College Colloquium course, faculty selected as college mentors teach the medical humanities and lead sessions dedicated to student professional development in the areas of leadership, research, and service-learning. This academic and professional development program builds on the existing strengths of the colleges and has transformed the colleges into learning communities.The authors reflect on lessons learned and discuss future plans. They report that internal data and data from the Association of American Medical Colleges Medical School Graduation Questionnaire support consistently high and increasing satisfaction among Vanderbilt medical students, across the metrics of personal counseling, faculty mentoring, and career planning.