Griffith Griffith Medicine: MD Program Overview


Medical Student
Emeritus Staff
[This is a current work in progress. Currently I've just copied and pasted a couple of forum posts from mine into the one place, but I will tidy this up and add to it soon. If there are specific points you'd like me to cover or expand on, please ask below.]

General program structure

The first two years of the program are spent full time on campus - either at Griffith Gold Coast campus at Southport or at the Sunshine Coast Health Institute if you're placed at the Sunshine Coast. The final two years are spent full time in the hospital; there is a preferencing system where you apply in the middle of second year for your third year placement location, and then again in third year for the fourth year placement location. This is done via random ballot but international students and those with extenuating circumstances (e.g. those who have dependents in their family) are guaranteed the placement location of their choosing from my understanding.

Classes and assessment are split into four themes: Medical science (DKHI), law and ethics (DLEPP), public health (DHC) and clinical/communication skills (DP).

Much like any other medical schools, we have a combination of lectures, PBL, anatomy/pathology practicals and communication workshops (basically simulated scenarios with simulated patients). Griffith’s anatomy facilities are outstanding and we have a 3 hour anatomy prac almost every week of the year. Everything except lectures and anatomy/pathology pracs are compulsory attendance (lectures are lecture captured but the system is very unreliable for a number of reasons and it's best to attend the DKHI lectures if you can, and I think you'd be silly to skip anatomy or pathology unless you have a highly relevant background in those areas).

To pass the year, you need to pass all 4 themes. In first and second year, the assessment pieces are: anatomy prac exam in April, mid year theory exams (one short answer paper and one multi choice paper: combined DKHI, DHC and DLEPP in each paper) and final year exams (two short answer, two multi choice and one anatomy/pathology prac exam - again; the theory exams combine the three themes).

You just need to pass each theme overall, so hypothetically you could fail the end of year exam for a theme or two but have enough marks from the mid year exams to make up for it, and vice versa.

If you have failed one or more of those themes after all exams are complete, you’ll be offered a supplementary exam which supersedes all other exam results (i.e. you only need to pass the supp to pass the year).

You’ll only have to repeat the year if you fail the supp, or fail DP.

For DP, there are “competency based assessments” throughout the year which are pass/fail: for clinical skills, system examination skills and communication skills. If you fail an assessment, you get three repeated attempts for each assessment until you pass.

From 2nd year you also start doing OSCEs at the end of the year, which I believe you must pass to move on to the next year.

The school definitely wants everyone to pass and offers plenty of extra assistance to students who are struggling.

Out of the current 2nd year cohort of just under 200 students, there are 3 in our year that are repeating, so very few students actually end up failing and the school emphasises that it’s usually very exceptional circumstances that would lead to this point.

How PBL works

I'll give a run down of how PBL works at my university and what I've personally gained from it, but I'm not sure if it runs any differently at other universities.

For me, we have 5 hours a week (2 2.5 hour sessions) and are split into groups of 8, which we change 4 times in the year. PBL basically works like this: there is a new case each week, and you'll go through, slide by slide, a patient with a presenting complaint. As a group, you brainstorm differential diagnoses as you go through each slide. One person will record the patient's information up on the board, i.e. history of presenting complaint, medical/family/social history, medications etc etc. Ideally as a group you come up with a pretty good list of differentials early on based on what the patient has. You can discuss what investigations you would need to perform to narrow down the diagnoses etc. As you move further along, you get more information about the patient and thus eliminate diagnoses as you go (all through discussion through the group).

As we have each case split into two sessions (in reality it's actually over 3 days at my uni but I won't bother with the specifics), during the first session someone makes a list of any unanswered questions/problems the group had, and the school gives us a list of "learning objectives" i.e. things you should learn while doing the case. When we come back for the second session, we spend about an hour doing "report back" which is where one of the learning objectives is randomly allocated to each person, and they do a mini presentation on the whiteboard to "teach" the group about it (so between the first and second session you need to research and ideally learn the answers to the learning objectives). Then, you go through the rest of the case as per normal and eventually find out the diagnosis and treatment. Between slides that provide information about the patient, there are "discussion questions" which basically prompt the group to talk about things related to the case. If you're in a really good group like I was most of this year, your group shouldn't need to read the prompts to go over everything the school wants you to.

So, what have I gained from PBL?
  • It more or less forces you to stay on top of the content, because you're spending 5 hours a week covering content relevant to whatever you're meant to be learning, and being prepared for report back = learning the content yourself in your own time.
  • You get a huge range of perspectives from different people in your group that you likely wouldn't have considered yourself (particularly in graduate entry, because they deliberately diversify the groups so you might have a pharmacist, a biomed grad and a physio all in one group - but that's probably less relevant for undergrad entry schools).
  • You actually feel like you're being a doctor! Obviously it's nothing like actually being in a clinical scenario, but you get to approach each hypothetical patient like you're in a healthcare team: you consider the patient history, discuss with others, formulate differential diagnoses, discuss the investigations you would perform to narrow it down, analyse test results and discuss treatment plans etc. This makes learning really enjoyable and really effective!
  • It's fun! I had such a great time with my groups this year, and we had a roster so that one person brought in food each session. Lots of laughs, and a good casual environment, but a great learning environment too.
  • Report back can seem nerve wracking at first, but ultimately this is a great way to get out of your comfort zone, improve your communication skills and become really good at teaching complex concepts and simplifying them in a way that's easy for others to understand - and this skill is incredibly important in the medical profession (first because you need to be able to simplify to patients what is going on with their health, and second because learning in medicine is very dependent on those with more experience teaching others with less experience).
  • There is heaps and heaps of resource sharing between group members. Knowing the best places to go when you want specific information is going to help a lot as a medical student, and it makes it a whole lot easier when everyone combines forces and shares their resources with each other.
  • Having to answer LOs in between sessions greatly hones your skills of learning independently and finding ideal sources for information - again, essential skills for a medical student and future doctor.