The College Advisory Program of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine


johnhopkins.pngThe Colleges Advisory Program (CAP) was founded in 2005 by the Deans of the School of Medicine and student leaders of the Medical Student Senate. In the years leading to CAP’s founding, students voiced a strong desire for better relationships with faculty and guidance in navigating the road map of medical training. One student’s comment, “I just want someone to know me here!” became a rallying cry to improve the relational connections in the learning environment. In addition, the school was finding it increasingly difficult to adequately staff our time-intensive clinical skills course with faculty volunteers. Thus, CAP began with a dual focus on longitudinal career advising and clinical skills teaching, and a mechanism to support participating faculty for their efforts and was modeled after the very successful program led by Erika Goldstein and colleagues at the University of Washington. Adding to this model, we intentionally formed CAP based on a learning communities construct, following a vision articulated by Boyer in his classic monograph, In Search of Community (1990), establishing curricular and social structures intended to support a sense of wholeness and connection for students and faculty. In 2006, we choose to name each college after a legendary Hopkins faculty member:

  • Daniel Nathans, winner of the 1978 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of the DNA restriction enzymes, and mentor to generations of Hopkins physicians and scientists.
  • Florence Sabin, a renowned pathologist and the first woman to attain full professorship at JHUSOM in 1917.
  • Helen Taussig, a pediatric cardiologist, was renowned for her teaching and inspiring ability to overcome deafness as a master clinician.
  • Vivien Thomas, one of Hopkins great unsung heroes, as a surgical technician he helped develop the ‘blue baby’ operation, and served as mentor to a generation of distinguished surgeons.

Program Goals

  • Fostering a welcoming community honoring the diversity of its students and faculty
  • Promoting advising and mentoring relationships for students across all years of medical school
  • Encouraging a culture of peer advising for students across levels of training
  • Supporting scholarship, leadership, and personal well-being
  • Advising students on career development, and assisting them in building professional connections across the Hopkins medical community
  • Promoting humanism through commitment to caring attitudes, skillful practice, role modeling, and supporting each student in their professional formation

CAP Structure

  • Each incoming class of 120 students is divided randomly into 30 in each of the 4 colleges
  • 24 faculty serve in CAP, each making a 3-5 year commitment for advising and teaching roles, and receiving 0.2 FTE support. We have a competitive selection process and include student leaders in faculty selection. Six faculty advisors are in each college.
  • Students are clustered into units of 5 along with an advisor- this is the “advisory molecule” (figure 1).
  • The molecules are learning teams for the 17-week Clinical Foundations of Medicine course in Year 1. Molecules then meet quarterly over the 4 years to dialog on experiences impacting their professional growth.
  • Each college has its own student leadership structure and hosts a variety of social, community service, and peer advising events to foster connections, vertical integration, and support among students.
  • CAP has a geographic home on the 2nd floor of the new Armstrong Education Building. Each college has a multi-purpose suite with a kitchen, lockers, meeting and study space for student use (see posted video, “Space that builds connections”).

Leadership of CAP

  • Director (founding): Robert Shochet, MD (
  • Associate Director: Emily Frosch, MD (
  • Senior Academic Program Coordinator: Ms. Susan Shultz (
  • Assistant Program Coordinator: Ms. Joyce Luckin, RN (
  • CAP office: Armstrong Medical Education Building, Suite 202; 1600 McElderry Street, Baltimore, MD 21205 (tel. 410-502-3737).
  • CAP Faculty: Bold font denotes College leaders
    • Florence Sabin College:
      Emily Frosch, MD, Assoc. Prof. Child Psychiatry
      Hoover Adger, MD, Prof. Pediatrics & Adol. Med.
      Frank Giardiello, MD, Professor of Medicine
      Mark Hughes, MD, Asst. Prof Medicine
      Rachel Levine, MD, Assoc. Prof. Medicine
      Janet Record, MD, Asst. Prof. Medicine
    • Vivien Thomas College:
      David Cooke, MD, Assoc. Prof. Pediatrics
      Marco Grados, MD, Asst Prof. Child Psychiatry
      Amit Pahwa, MD, Instructor in Medicine
      Bethany Sacks, MD, Asst. Prof. Surgery
      Robert Shochet, MD, Asst. Prof. Medicine
      Carol Ziminski, MD, Assoc. Prof. Medicine
    • Daniel Nathans College:
      David Levine, MD, Professor of Medicine
      Mitchell Goldstein, MBA, MD, Asst. Prof. Pediatrics
      Jeff Keefer, MD, PhD, Asst. Prof. Pediatrics/Hematology
      Anastasia Rowland-Seymour, MD, Asst. Prof Medicine
      Steve Sozio, MD, Asst. Prof. Medicine
      Arun Venkatesan, MD, PhD Asst. Prof. Neurology
    • Helen Taussig College: 
      Robert Dudas, MD, Asst. Prof. Pediatrics
      L. David Martin, MD, Asst. Prof. Medicine
      Barry Solomon, MD, Assoc. Prof. Pediatrics
      Lisa Christopher-Stine MD, Asst. Prof. Medicine
      Maria Trent, MD, Assoc. Prof. Pediatrics & Adol. Med.
      Sammy Zakaria, MD, Asst. Prof. Medicine

Activities Showcase

Student Professional Growth

  • White Coat Ceremony- We host the WCC in the spring of first year, later than most schools, to enable students to plan and lead their ceremony in partnership with the Deans and CAP faculty. This allows for student-inspired activities, such as a slide show documenting their year together, creating a class statement of professionalism, and celebratory performances.
  • Longitudinal reflection groups- This added curricular component is a narrative writing and personal awareness session held quarterly for molecules, to permit focus on an aspect of personal and professional development. Examples of topics: thinking about one’s use of alcohol and other drugs, forming relationships with patients, and experience of critical incidents.

CAP Faculty Development

  • The CAP faculty meets on a Thursday afternoon on a monthly basis to learn together and improve skills in teaching, advising and mentoring. One popular ongoing activity is the Advisory Case Conference, where a faculty member presents a student advising dilemma, and we work together to gain clarity on best practices.

CAP Career Development Programs

  • Each year we assist the Year 3-4 students with a series of evening dinner programs and workshops: Applying for Residency (spring); CV and Personal Statements (early summer); Mock Interview Night (early fall).

CAP Social Scene

  • The CAP Olympics, modeled after the now famous Olympics at Vanderbilt, is a highlight of year and builds tremendous school spirit.

Scholarship—Selected publications from our learning community

  • Stewart RW, Barker AR, Shochet RB, Wright SM. The new and improved learning community at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine resembles that at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Med Teach. 2007 (4):353-7.
  • Levine R, Cayea D, Shochet RB, Wright SM. The mid-clerkship crisis: Lessons in advising a medical student with career indecision. Acad Med 2010; 85: 654-659.
  • Shochet RB, Colbert-Getz J, Levine RB, Wright SM. Gauging events that impact students’ perceptions of the medical school learning environment. Acad Med. 2013, Feb 88(2): 246-252.

Lessons Learned

Now in our 9th year, we’ve learned and evolved quite a bit as an LC! Here are a few reflections:

  • Importance of LC faculty relationships and continued growth: As a multi-disciplinary faculty, we decided that it would be important for us to meet regularly to build a shared vision, continually renew our appreciative culture, and refine our skills by co-creating wisdom about our work with students. The emergent bonds that formed between faculty members became an important platform and model for students to do likewise within the communities.
  • Staying connected to students in the clinical years: Still a work in progress, we’ve developed quarterly reflection/narrative writing sessions that track through the four years, to permit an iterative dialog about personal and professional growth within each advisory molecule. Students very much look forward to these meetings to “touch home base”.
  • Changing culture: Like many of our sister LC programs, we’ve delighted in being able to effect positive change in the relational culture of life in the medical school building, i.e. when the focus is on the student. However, in the medical center where the focus turns to the needs of the patient, and UME follows GME training structures, building relational culture is an interesting and complex challenge, and we look to our LC colleagues for continued support and collaboration!

Photos and Graphics