Academic Competence

Our science faculty members are committed to helping our students develop and nurture their own academic competence through rigorous academic experiences until it becomes a recognizable professional expectation distinguishing our pre-professional students. According to Epstein and Hundert (2002), “Professional competence is the habitual and judicious use of communication, knowledge, technical skills, clinical reasoning, emotions, values, and reflection in daily practice for the benefit of the individual and the community being served.” Academic competence, on the other hand, is a smaller subset of the broader set of competencies needed to succeed as a pre-professional health student, including interpersonal and intrapersonal competencies.

Today, aspiring pre-health students must prepare to succeed in an admissions process that will evaluate professional school candidates based on their competency in mostly science-based curriculum as well as their overarching analytical skills, rather than their mastery of specific facts learned in required courses. Hence, we encourage students toward academic competence in the fields required—biology, chemistry, ethics, psychology, and sociology—to prepare for medical education, writ large.

What are the broader goals in the movement for academic competence?

  • Educate future physicians and other health care providers to be inquisitive.
  • Help them build a strong scientific foundation for their future training and careers.
  • Prepare students to apply knowledge of the self, others, and social systems to solve problems related to the psychological, socio-cultural, and biological factors that influence health and well-being.
  • Train students to effectively communicate with colleagues and others using spoken and written forms of information.
  • Equip students with the knowledge, skills, and habits of mind to integrate new scientific discovery into their medical practice throughout their professional lives and to share this knowledge with patients and other health care professionals.

Educators interested in developing pre-professional competencies among scholars point out that mindfulness is critical to developing competency. Therefore, we encourage all PPHS students to remain mindful that their academic proficiency depends on habits of mind that will allow them as practitioners to be attentive, curious, self-aware, and willing to recognize and correct errors. In 2009, the Association of American Medical Colleges, in collaboration with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, released a report aimed at defining these scientific competencies. SPU’s PPHS program draws on the AAMC’s Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students to guide all students in the health sciences. To that end, our program director and faculty encourage students to cultivate Pre-Professional Competencies, Thinking and Reasoning Competencies, and Science Competencies.

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