JMP Questions and Answers

General Questions

  • To gain experience in research and have the opportunity to complete a master’s level research project in the health sciences, social sciences, or the humanities.
  • To experience problem-based, student-directed learning of the pre-clerkship medical curriculum in small group tutorials.
  • To study in an interactive, student-driven learning environment that focuses on problem-solving skills.
  • To experience the camaraderie and strong sense of community that exists at the JMP.
  • To attend UC Berkeley with its diverse student body, community and political organizations.
  • And for many other reasons as varied as are our students!

High quality teaching, opportunity for research, and small group learning. JMP faculty members encourage our students to acquire knowledge, scholarly skills, and a compassionate attitude towards medical practice. The JMP curriculum emphasizes working independently in small groups and resolving the issues and conflicts that arise. This is exactly how people work in community and academic medicine. Students learn how to ask and answer questions, including learning the art of how to plumb medical and research literature deeply for understanding.

JMP students are well prepared for and do well in both the USMLE part I and clerkships at UCSF. Our students have learned the requisite content and reached the equivalent competency milestones plus they have honed their diagnostic, analytical, problem-solving, and research skills.

Most of the core medical, clinical, and thesis seminar courses are exclusively the 16-member class. Several core courses are in other campus departments and include non-JMP students. Thesis electives provide the opportunity to work with students from a variety of campus departments. JMP electives provide the opportunity for classes with JMP students in other class years.

JMP faculty members hold positions on the UC Berkeley campus, while some faculty members have joint appointments with teaching responsibilities at UC Berkeley and UCSF. Although the curriculum is organized and taught in a different format from UCSF, the content contained in the Berkeley phase of the program covers material taught during the first two years at UCSF. In addition, our faculty participate with UCSF faculty in course director retreats, committee work, and faculty development activities and clinical skills courses. UCSF and JMP faculty are colleagues who meet regularly in a variety of ways, including in their respective professional organizations.

JMP and UCSF faculty are often colleagues and friends, whose paths cross at retreats, workshops, meetings, professional activities, and in community work. The faculty on both campuses are outstanding teachers and scholars and work together well. The JMP is a community-based medical program, and many JMP faculty members are clinician educators with an active community practice in their specialty.

The core medical curriculum at the JMP is a comprehensive equivalent of the two-year pre-clerkship curriculum offered at UCSF. UC Berkeley is on a semester calendar and UCSF is on the quarter calendar, which makes intercampus exchange of coursework difficult. In spite of these difficulties, some JMP students have taken a thesis elective at UCSF. Also, many UCSF faculty serve as members of JMP thesis committees.

JMP students are well prepared for and do well in both the USMLE part I and clerkships at UCSF. Our students have learned the requisite content and reached the equivalent competency milestones plus they have honed their diagnostic, analytical, problem-solving, and research skills.

The transition to the clerkship years can be challenging for all medical students. Though JMP students have not had 2 years of UCSF-campus experiences, they are well versed in self-directed, group learning and a non-lecture based curriculum which is a large component of the clerkship years.

UCSF students are familiar with the UCSF campus but not as familiar with the self-directed learning. All students (including UCSF students) are provided with an introduction to the clerkship years with training in clinical procedures during the two-week long “Transitional Clerkship” prior to starting core clerkships, see this page on the UCSF Medical School website.

It is not unusual for one or more of the JMP students to be elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society each year at graduation. Nomination is based on performance in the final two years at UCSF.

Many of our students enter clinical practice in primary care, but many choose fields in a wide variety of non-primary care fields, including international health. It is also our hope that JMP students will increasingly take on leadership roles in academic medicine, public health, and community-based primary care.

Student Life at the JMP

For the Berkeley phase of the program, most students live in Berkeley, though some students live in surrounding East Bay communities (e.g., Oakland, Albany), and a few live in San Francisco. Commuting from San Francisco to the JMP adds significant commute time to a frequently impacted schedule. For the San Francisco phase of the program, most students do live in San Francisco, although some JMP students do choose to maintain their East Bay residence and decide to schedule many of their clerkship rotations in the East Bay.

Students are active in many organizations: American Medical Student Association (AMSA); Student National Medical Association (SNMA); Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA); American Medical Association (AMA); California Medical Association (CMA); Alameda Contra Costa Medical Association (ACCMA); American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA); Medical Students for Choice (MSFC); Suitcase Clinic (started in 1989 by JMP students and now run and sustained by JMP students, as well as a large cadre of undergraduate students).

All students are required to attend school full-time during the summer at the beginning of the first year. During subsequent summers, there is flexibility to attend school and take thesis requirements, or to take those requirements during the regular semesters and use the second and third summers in the program to conduct research and/or write the thesis.

Although the JMP is on an academic campus, and not in a traditional health sciences hospital-based campus, we utilize many East Bay hospitals, community clinics, geriatric care centers, and physician offices as teaching sites. There is ample teaching in a clinical setting and extensive opportunity for patient contact. Because of the small class size, there is often a smaller student-to-faculty ratio in clinical situations.

There are many opportunities for such interaction. JMP graduates at UCSF completing their fourth and fifth years attend the JMP Welcoming BBQ in June. JMP students participate in the White Coat Ceremony at UCSF for all the first year students in the programs of the School of Medicine and are invited to the UCSF School of Medicine Alumni Association Welcome BBQ in September. The PRIME program provides frequent opportunities for students from both campuses to meet and interact around urban underserved activities open to all students. Students in various professional student groups cross paths and may work on regional committees. Social activities and friends’ networks also result in bringing students together. JMP students may do research at UCSF and take UCSF electives, meeting UCSF students and faculty in the process. Additionally, UCSF students who pursue an MPH degree do so at the Berkeley campus and interact with JMP students. JMP fourth-year students meet with JMP third-year students to support their transition to UCSF. As well, some fifth-years return to the JMP to assist with CICBC tutorials as part of their elective UCSF fourth-year experiences.

Medical Curriculum

In the JMP, student-centered small group learning means that students take a leading role in their own learning as well as for the learning of the group as a whole. Rather than being anonymous individuals in a large lecture hall, JMP students use class time to work actively together to learn, teach, and clarify what they have learned. Faculty tutors guide students to resources for solving problems and defining learning objectives. This Problem Based Learning (PBL) format is one of several pedagogical styles employed in Anatomy during first summer session, and then becomes the primary mode of learning in the pre-clinical curriculum beginning fall of first year. Problem Based Learning is a specific form of small group learning that is case-based.

The vast majority of the foundational medical sciences at the JMP are case-based. The tutorial sessions have one faculty tutor with a maximum of eight students. Additional core JMP classes, as in the two and a half year Patient Care & Clinical Systems curriculum , use a broad variety of teaching methods, including small group lectures, seminars, and one-on-one precepting with community physicians. The master’s curriculum employs a combination of small group seminars, full class trainings and guest talks, and opportunities for individual exploration of topics and methodologies with faculty mentorship and advising.

Yes, the JMP is a community-based, clinically-based program, and students have a broad range of clinical experiences and patient contact.

Master’s Thesis

Yes. The Admissions Committee looks carefully for evidence of intellectual creativity as well as the ability to apply oneself to a project and see it through. This is reflected in the applicant’s commitment to activities/projects done in-depth as opposed to many activities/projects of short duration.

No. Applicants with initial ideas or areas of interest may use the admissions process to determine the feasibility of their proposed research. Applicants who do not have a topic in mind will have ample time and support by the Master’s Faculty in the program’s first year to identify and pursue their topic of interest.

What types of thesis work do students do?
Research areas are very diverse but are generally based in the humanities, social or behavioral sciences, or public health. Interests in the basic biological sciences and the clinical sciences are also welcome. Research may be qualitative/ethnographic or quantitative/epidemiologic in nature; it may involve national or international travel. It may also focus primarily on philosophical/historical investigation, involving archival research and mastery of relevant literature. It may involve working alone or with many people. For a listing of past thesis topics, please review the JMP thesis index on this UC Berkeley library page.

Beginning with the first year in the JMP, students are closely guided and mentored by our Master’s faculty in developing their topics and methodologies.

There is advisory support via the Thesis Seminar, which students take Summer, Fall, and Spring during the first year. Each student has a Thesis Adviser, selected from our Master’s faculty, for Years 2 and 3. During the second and third years, students take part in thesis working groups with other second and third year students engaged in similar types of research. These working groups are designed to support students through the process of designing, completing, presenting and writing their master’s research project. Students develop skills in presenting their research during all three years of the program.

Twenty units are the minimum although most students take more than a 20-unit program. Some of these units are required for all students and are scheduled as part of the core curriculum. These are thesis seminar, epidemiology, and thesis working group. The remaining units taken by students are directly related to their individual research project. We encourage students to take graduate level courses in their area of interest offered by other departments on the Berkeley campus.

Our curriculum is designed to allow time for thesis work integrated with medical studies in a carefully planned program of study. Thesis related work, including fieldwork, analysis and writing, is also advanced during summer and extensive holiday breaks.

No. Although, the JMP is in the School of Public Health, we offer an academic master’s degree; the MPH is considered a professional degree. The academic Master of Science degree is awarded in Health and Medical Sciences. Students whose thesis is related to public health work closely with School of Public Health faculty and take coursework in Public Health to satisfy MS requirements, but do not receive a public health degree.

There is a separate non-JMP MD/MPH program with UCSF and UC Berkeley – go to this program page for more details.

The MS is an academic degree, and each student’s program of study and research area is unique. An MPH is a professional degree and students complete a program of study meant to provide an overview with specific training in public health. Whether one should get an MPH instead of an MS depends on one’s long-term goals. For those wanting a public health-based career, an MPH may be more important professionally. The educational experience and skills learned are so different in each degree program that each person should evaluate immediate and future goals, and choose as best they can.

Yes, students in the JMP can add the MPH as an additional degree. However, the logistics of scheduling the additional 40-42 units can be extremely challenging. Attempting to complete both the MS and MPH often results in taking over 20 units per semester, considered difficult by students who want to maintain a meaningful life outside of school. If interested in a simultaneous MPH, consult with JMP and School of Public Health student services staff during your first summer in the program.

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Help us to train outstanding physicians committed to health equity and social justice through a variety of funds, including the JMP Diversity Fund, the JMP Student Services Fund, and the Kevin Mack Medical Education Leadership Support fund.

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