Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Colleges


In 2006, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine  (VUSM) underwent an intentional restructuring of its advisory organization. In search of a system that promoted student wellness and facilitated career planning, the administration drew inspiration from the centuries-old Oxford model to develop the Advisory Colleges Program (ACP), now known simply as The Colleges.

As the program took hold, the colleges evolved from a system solely focused on wellness and career planning to one that included an academic mission as well. Today the Learning Communities courses, the academic component of the Colleges, seek to maximize students’ professional development through course work in metacognition and reasoning, ethics, leadership and the broader healthcare environment. These courses provide integrative connections with curricular and clerkship learning objectives in a nurturing environment.

Program Goals

In developing The Colleges, we sought to establish a structured, mentoring environment to enhance students’ medical school experience on the levels of wellness, career planning, and medical humanities. By placing academic goals next to wellness and career planning throughout medical school, the Colleges develop a unique, longitudinal culture that fosters both personal and professional development through an overarching social context. Additionally, these learning communities promote strong mentoring relationships between faculty and peers, helping students excel in all aspects of life throughout their medical education.


Each of the four VUSM colleges - Batson College, Chapman College, Gabbe College, Robinson College - is composed of two faculty College Mentors and one-quarter of the VUSM students from all curricular tracks. The students are “sorted” upon matriculation into the Colleges, creating diversity and dialogue among the groups. College Mentors are selected through a competitive application process evaluating their background in teaching and advising at the undergraduate medical education level, as well as their creativity, enthusiasm, accountability, good judgment, and positive mindset. They are provided 0.3 full-time equivalent salary support for their duties as mentors and professional guides to students at all levels and for their role as leaders of the four-year, longitudinally integrated Learning Communities course.

Working with the two College Mentors, each College has assigned volunteer Faculty Affiliate Advisors to broaden interactions between students and medical school faculty. Additionally, within each College a select group of fourth year students take on the responsibility of Student Affiliate Advisor and lead the peer mentoring events.  These affiliate advisory groups broaden the Colleges’ mentorship capacity, allow students to access assistance from experienced individuals uninvolved in student evaluations, and enhance the variety of clinical specialties represented within each College unit.


Bonnie Miller, MD - Associate Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs
Senior Associate Dean for Health Sciences Education

Amy Fleming, MD - Associate Dean for Medical Student Affairs

Dawn Ray - Program Coordinator Office of Medical Student Affairs

Jennifer Dawson - Program Coordinator Office of Medical Student Affairs

Bill Cutrer, MD, MEd - Director of Learning Communities; Batson College Mentor

Andrew Pfeffer, MD - Batson College Mentor

Walter Clair, MD, MPH - Chapman College Mentor

Beth Ann Yakes, MD - Chapman College Mentor

Matthew Miller, MD - Gabbe College Mentor

Ban Mishu Allos, MD - Gabbe College Mentor

Michael Pilla, MD - Robinson College Mentor

Lindy Fenlason, MD, MPH - Robinson College Mentor

Activities Showcase

  • Big Sib/Little Sib Program - pairing of first and second year students in each college
  • Boards Bash - annual program for Step 1 USMLE preparation
  • Careers in Medicine workshops- Explore, Decide and Succeed in residency application process
  • College Cup - Olympics-style competition between the colleges
  • Family Dinners - groups of students gather at mentors’ homes for dinner
  • Family Pumpkin Carving - intercollege seasonal activities for students and families
  • Meet and Greet (MAG) - orientation programing for first year students
  • Mock Interviews - mock residency interviews
  • Shade Tree Trot - 5k road race to support Shade Tree Clinic a student-run free clinic
  • Shade Tree College Nights - faculty and students serve together as the clinical staff at STC
  • Wellness Retreats - annual retreats that blend class specific programming with outdoor recreational activities:
    • First Year - Surviving vs. Thriving: Understanding the Difference
    • Second Year - Motivated Abilities: Connecting with One’s Natural Talents
    • Third Year - Resilience Enhancement
    • Fourth Year - Integration and Choices: Creation of Graduation Oath
  • …and many other college-specific social activities


Fleming A, Cutrer W, Moutsios S, et al. Building learning communities: evolution of the colleges at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Acad Med 2013; 88:1246-51.

Sastre, E. A., Burke, E. E., Silverstein, E., Kupperman, A., Rymer, J. A., Davidson, M. A., et al. (2010). Improvements in medical school wellness and career counseling: A comparison of one-on-one advising to an Advisory College Program. Medical Teacher, 32(10), e429-35.

Drolet, B. C., & Rodgers, S. (2010). A comprehensive medical student wellness program-design and implementation at Vanderbilt School of Medicine. Academic Medicine : Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 85(1), 103-110.


A Medical School More Like Hogwarts