NJMS - Admissions

Distinction Programs at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School

Purpose of the Distinction Programs in Service, Global Health, Urban Health, Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Medicine or Medical Education:
Medical students interested in pursuing focused studies in service, global health, urban health, entrepreneurship and innovation in medicine or Medical Education may apply to the respective Distinction Program at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS).  Each program is designed as a longitudinal experience that includes interactive didactic sessions, mentorship, experiential learning and a Year 4 Capstone Project.     The Distinction Programs are supplemental to the NJMS curriculum and are designed to enrich an interested student’s academic endeavors.  Participants must be accepted into the program, maintain good academic standing and satisfy all program requirements.  Additionally, the Distinction Programs afford participants additional opportunities to master many of the NJMS learning goals and objectives, especially:

  • Goal 3: Excellence in Professionalism and Humanism
  • Goal 4: Commitment to the Health of the Community and Appreciation of Social and Cultural Diversity
  • Goal 6: Development of Effective Skills in Education and Communication.

Please note:  The Distinction Program in Research is  a well established track at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School with a rolling, personalized option managed by Dr. Padmini Salgame.

Description of Distinction Programs in Service, Global Health, Urban Health, Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Medicine and Medical Education:

Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) defines Community Engaged Service Learning (CESL) as an educational experience in which students, through structured service activities, identify and reflect upon community needs and assets that culminate in an enhanced sense of civic responsibility and community awareness.

Community Engaged Service Learning became a requirement in the NJMS curriculum in the Fall of 2015. The graduation requirement seeks to build upon and enhance a rich culture of service at NJMS by providing students with structured guidance for implementing meaningful, effective, and sustainable service projects that address the needs of Newark and the surrounding communities.  In addition, service learning experiences offer an invaluable opportunity for students to develop core skills in cultural competency, health education, patient advocacy, and community engaged research and evaluation that will help them to develop into leaders in the medical field and in the communities they serve.

In this Distinction Program, students will further their study of community-engaged service learning and coordinate with academic health centers (AHCs), community-based organizations, and social service agencies efforts to promote better health outcomes.

Global Health:
The field of global health has grown considerably over the past decade and experiencing a surge in support and growth at Rutgers.  A significant majority of medical students now express an interest in learning more about global health, with almost a third participating in a global health experience. In addition to personal enrichment students gain a skillset that they can use in the future to make an impact on their personal medical practices, as well as global health. 

In this Distinction Program, students will study the global burden of disease and their potential role as an actor international development.  Students will further consider the ethics of global health and impact effectiveness when designing their programs.  Finally, students will be supported in this program by program personnel with expertise in global health, including related to their field experience project.  On successful completion of the program students will have gained a strong foundation to be active in global health in a practical, effective and ethically sound manner.

Urban Health:
Newark is New Jersey's largest and second-most racially diverse city with twice the rates of poverty compared to the nation overall.   With access to health care largely socially determined, this Distinction Program will focus on the public health needs of urban and disadvantaged populations, such as those in Newark.  Collaboration with faculty, community programs and partners will allow students to propose and assess strategies to enhance population health, improve access to quality care, and advance medical knowledge within the community to improve overall health outcomes.

Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Medicine:
Elements of healthcare reform, known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or ACA, are changing the way healthcare is delivered by encouraging greater coordination of care, striving for better quality care and clinical outcomes, and aiming to reduce costs of care. Given the shifting landscape of health care in the United State, the need for innovation and entrepreneurship in medicine has never been greater.  

The Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Medicine Distinction Program is designed to encourage students with novel ideas that will improve patient safety and health outcomes, support the growth of digital medicine, advance medical education, or further research in a given field to pursue their endeavors in a structured manner with the support of a School mentor.  Students with unique health-related initiatives are also invited to apply for this distinction program.

Medical Education:
There have been significant advances in medical education in the last decade, for example, the growth of educational technology and Simulation Medicine. This Distinction Program is designed for those students who have dedicated significant time and demonstrated excellence in at least one of the following five areas: teaching, mentoring, education administration, curriculum development or curriculum assessment. The distinction program will introduce students to core principles in medical education and provide opportunities for them to apply these skills in the learning environment.  This program will also expose students to the governance, structure and functions of academic medicine, with the goal developing future educators and academic leaders.   The program will include elements of coursework already well-defined in the NJMS curricula, such as the Fellowship in the Office of Education and Teaching Assistant program for the Patient-Centered Medicine discipline.  Students in the Distinction Program cannot, however, also enroll for credit in these electives.

The Distinction Program will include a variety of experiences in medical education.  Students in the program are required to complete scholarly work in each of the following areas:
• Structure and Function of Academic Medicine (i.e, serve on a curriculum committee or taskforce)
• Direct Teaching and Mentoring Activities (i.e, serve as a Teaching Assistant)
• Curriculum Content Development with contact time with learners (i.e, lead an exam review)
• Learner Assessment and Evaluation (i.e, develop quizzes, role play as an standardized patient)
• Scholarship of Medical Education (i.e, describe educational activities and/or curriculum for MedEd PORTAL)
• Summative Educational Portfolio development

The skills targeted for development will prepare students to be effective physician educators to peers and patients alike. Students are expected to take a scholarly approach to their work in education.  When determining fulfillment of Capstone requirements, a committee of faculty educators will consider a student’s excellence in educational activities based on: quantity (the number of learners and/or impact of their project); quality (sufficient quality of work/scholarly contribution); and dissemination (contributions to the education community at NJMS and beyond).

 Distinction Program Requirements:

  • Participation in all service, global health, urban health, entrepreneurship and innovation in medicine or medical education Distinction Program activities
  • Attendance at a minimum of bi-annual meetings with the respective Distinction Program advisor
  • Attendance at all Distinction Program didactic sessions
  • Development of a Distinction Program portfolio that documents Distinction Program activities and achievements 
  • Completion of a 4th year Capstone elective to finalize Distinction Program requirements

By the end of the service, global health, urban health, entrepreneurship and innovation in medicine or medical education distinction program, a student will have: 

  1. Worked with an advisor (ex. faculty member and/or community leader) to fulfill the requirements of the Distinction Program;
  2. Developed and fulfilled individual goals and objectives for their experience specific to their scholarly interests;
  3. Planned, reviewed, reflected upon, and completed a scholarly activity that results in a local regional or national reviewed presentation and/or publication;
  4. Developed a network of students, faculty, and leaders with similar service and scholarly interests.

Sample Didactic Content:

  • Planning your Distinction Program journey: reflecting on the past, assessing the present and plotting the future
  • Building a portfolio: transforming service to scholarship 
  • Selecting and starting your Distinction Program project(s)
  • Writing 101:  From spelling and grammar check to a report of publication quality
  • How to critically review literature and conduct a needs assessment
  • Designing, implementing and evaluating your Distinction Program activity
  • Is an IRB application required for your Distinction Program project?
  • Developing and submitting your abstract for a poster or oral presentation
  • Writing and submitting your project for journal consideration

Capstone Project:

  • Based upon didactic sessions, advising, and experiential learning experiences
  • Written paper (length TBD)
  • Oral presentation at pre-graduation Distinction Program symposium
  • Submission of abstract/manuscript to a regional or national conference/journal

Distinction Program Timeline (Years 1-4)

Year 1


Info session for Distinction Program


Distinction Program Application due


Selection of Distinction Program participants


Identify & meet with Distinction Program advisor

January – April

Distinction Program Didactic curriculum (2 hours/month)


Identify a summer experience and commence planning

March – May

Planning sessions related to field experience, including needs assessments, surveys, and post-experience effectiveness assessment (with advisor)


Distinction Program learning experience (summer b/w MS1 and MS2 years)

Year 2


Written progress report of Year 1 activities due

October – December

Didactic curriculum (2 hours/month)

January – April

Didactic curriculum (2 hours/month)

March – April

Mentorship of Year 1 student field experience planning


Poster session of Year 1 & 2 activities/experiences


Leadership role in Distinction Program-related student organizations

Year 3


Written progress report of Year 2 activities due


Reflective write-up of the student’s Distinction Program in the context of a clinical MS3 experience


Reflective write-up of the student’s Distinction Program in the context of a clinical MS3 experience


Continued participation in didactic sessions and mentorship of junior medical students

Year 4


Written progress report on Year 3 activities due


Continued participation in didactic sessions and mentorship of junior medical students

February – April

Enrollment in a 1 month Independent Study to finalize Capstone activities, including: final paper, abstract/manuscript, presentation and scholarly output


Submission of final portfolio


Final paper for Distinction Program due and presentation at yearly NJMS Distinction Program Symposium

Application Process for the Distinction Programs in Service, Global Health, Urban Health, Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Medicine or Medical Education:
The application will include questions about a student’s academic standing, personal and professional interests, and reasons for seeking inclusion in the Program.   All prospective participants will be interviewed by a representative from the Distinction Program committee. In view of the rigor of the Program, expectations for the Program will be clearly delineated during the interview process.  Selection will be made on the basis of the faculty’s evaluation of the student’s motivation, stated goals and objectives and academic standing.

Other Notes:

The Distinction Programs do not replace graduation requirements nor are they graded.  To ensure that program participants fulfill program objectives and requirements in a scholarly and timely fashion, their respective advisors and committee will assess student’s performance on a yearly basis and determine whether or not the student may remain active in the Distinction Program. Students who complete requirements for the Distinction Programs will have the program noted in their MSPEs (Dean’s Letters) and on their transcripts and diplomas.

July 2016 version