The first class of students at Mayo Clinic’s Arizona med school began coursework in July 2017.

A group of 50 Mayo Med School students recently began the first steps of a rigorous four-year journey to become medical doctors.

But before the students’ lives become a blur of late-night study sessions and hands-on medical training, faculty and administrators at the newly-opened medical school offered some advice.

Lesson No. 1: Students should take time for themselves to avoid being overwhelmed by academic and clinical demands.

“Keep up with good self-care — mental and physical self-care,” Dr. Michele Halyard,  the interim dean, told the school’s inaugural class.

Halyard told the students her stress-reliever as a student doctor came in the form of exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.

Habits like that can help students cope, Halyard said, because the coming weeks and months will be “like drinking from a fire hose. It’s a quantum leap up from undergrad or other programs you’ve done.” 

Newest med school in metro Phoenix

Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, also called Mayo Med School, began instruction last week at its Scottsdale campus at 13400 E. Shea Blvd. Its inaugural class includes a mix of students fresh out of undergraduate school and some seeking career changes. Ten students are either from Arizona or have Arizona ties.

Officials say Mayo Med School and four other schools that opened in metro Phoenix over the past decade could help bridge the region’s pressing physician shortage, though another impediment to recruiting doctors to practice in metro Phoenix and rural Arizona could be funding programs to train doctors after they graduate medical school.

A decade ago, there were no medical schools in Phoenix, the nation’s fifth-largest city. That changed with the 2007 opening of the taxpayer-funded University of Arizona College of Medicine at the Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix.

The UA College of Medicine now has independently accredited medical schools in Tucson and Phoenix. The Phoenix medical school graduates about 80 doctors each year.

Creighton University also opened a medical school site in Phoenix, training third- and fourth-year students at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. Midwestern University in Glendale and A.T. Still University in Mesa run osteopathic medical schools that graduate students with DO degrees.

What’s ahead for students


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The Mayo Clinic School of Medicine raised private donations to renovate an existing building to create classroom and training space at Mayo’s Scottsdale campus. The Mayo Clinic School of Medicine is an accredited medical school with campusesin Rochester, Minnesota; Florida; and now Arizona.

The first years of medical school are dominatedby science-related coursework that covers topics such as anatomy, biochemistry, cell biology, immunology, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology and therapeutics.

Students also complete a basic doctoring class that teaches them how to take a patient’s history and conduct a physical exam. Students will simultaneously complete an Arizona State University and Mayo Clinic certificate program in the science of health-care delivery.

MORE: Mayo, ASU join forces on new medical school

During an opening session last week, Halyard advised students not to lose sight of their ultimate goal of taking care of patients.

“We are teaching you to be physicians, not test takers,” Halyard said.

Other Mayo leaders offered advice for students when they begin their clinical rotations during years three and four. These hands-on clinical training sessions can be challenging and demanding. 

Long hours, but more protections

Students quizzed the Mayo faculty members on ways medical school has changed over the past two decades. 

For one, medical schools are more likely to listen to students and incorporate feedback through class and faculty evaluations, Halyard said.

And while students can expect long hours when they transition to clinical training and post-graduate residency training, there are some protections that didn’t exist a generation ago, Mayo officials noted. 

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which sets guidelines with medical residency programs, limits resident doctors to 80-hour work weeks and shifts that cannot exceed 24 hours. 

The suicide and patient-safety risks associated with long hours were highlighted again in 2014 after two New York resident doctors committed suicide in separate incidents. Studies have shown that newly-minted doctors face a higher suicide risk when they start their medical residencies.

Mayo officials acknowledged that student doctors face enormous pressures and long hours. 

“People work hard in medicine,” said Dr. Alyssa Chapital, a critical-care specialist. “I don’t expect students who come work with me to do 24-hour shifts because I did that when I was a medical student. That was by no means safe.”

Chapital said that it’s just as important for student doctors to be engaged when interacting with resident doctors and hospital faculty.

‘Go down the path of nice’

Halyard said one of her most important lessons came more recently when she was diagnosed with type one diabetes — at the age of 50. 

“I remember crying the first time I pricked my finger to check my blood sugar,” Halyard said. “Think about what it means to be a patient. That will help you become a better doctor.”

Neurologist Joseph Sirven offered this tip: Be courteous and respectful.

“Remember, everybody is fairly smart and accomplished. Not everyone, though, is nice. Go down the path of nice,” said Sirven, passing along advice he received as a young doctor. “Respectfulness is another way of putting it. It seems to get you farther ahead than other approaches.”

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