'Advising Oliver Mann' - A case-based, small-group orientation to medical school

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Academic Medicine








In 1998, the authors implemented a new academic orientation built around a problem-based clinical exercise for entering medical students, to prepare them for a curriculum emphasizing active learning in small groups. The exercise enables students to begin their professional studies with a 'hands on' understanding of two major emphases of the curriculum: (1) the process of small-group learning that will guide their medical education and (2) the principles of patient care that will guide their future practice of medicine. Called 'Advising Oliver Mann,' this orientation presents students with a clinical problem that they must work in small groups to solve. By collaborating in teams of ten, they become acquainted with the small-group learning methods at the heart of the school's curriculum. Through solving a clinical problem, they discover vital principles of patient care, such as the need in clinical decision making to integrate the scientific perspective with the perspective of patient and family. In developing 'Oliver Mann,' the authors came to realize that orientations can be much more than introductions. They can be reflective moments in a busy curriculum, a time for students and faculty to step back and take stock of important issues in education and doctoring. The authors are currently experimenting with exercises linking their freshman orientation with orientations in the second and third years so participants can reflect on the challenges of each new year and carry forward the small-group methods and practice of medicine themes of the new curriculum.