November 1, 2019—Some need to hear it; others must see it. Still others need to use their hands to gain a grasp.
No two students learn the same way. At the UF College of Medicine, when the going gets tough due to massive workloads, medical and PA students turn to James Gorske, learning resource specialist and disability officer for the college. Gorske offers individualized strategies to help students manage their time and study in ways that enable them to be successful on their exams, including the US Medical Licensing Examination Step 1.
From his office in the Harrell Medical Education Building, Gorske regularly meets with four to five students a day, discussing students’ current strategies and assessing what can be improved upon. Gorske says his work with students eases the transition from undergraduate studies to medical and PA training, when student work loads more than double.
“PA and medical students are obviously very intelligent and well-suited to starting their training, but sometimes, in transition from being undergraduates, they haven’t yet had to be intentional about how they approach learning and studying. With the pace and volume of material in medical and PA school, being strategic in how you learn is important,” Gorske says. “In our meetings, we look at methods of taking notes and ways to interact with the material after class. Some examples are making outlines, summaries or charts and graphs if they’re visual learners.”
Gorske says his goal in his work with students is to offer feedback that is “as individualized as possible,” remaining cognizant of the plethora of ways students approach learning and studying.
“That involves figuring out if they’re auditory or visual learners and if they focus on details or bigger picture ideas and connections,” Gorske says.
In the role that he’s held for four years, Gorske also serves as the college’s disability officer. For students with learning, mental health and medical disabilities, Gorske works with course and clerkship directors to facilitate accommodations for students that are established by the UF Disability Resource Center.
Before coming to the UF College of Medicine, Gorske served as the director of the UF Disability Resource Center, whose mission is to “champion a universally accessible community that supports the holistic advancement of individuals with disabilities.” Gorske says he was motivated to transition to his current position for its opportunities to work with students individually.
“In my previous role, I didn’t have much one-on-one contact with students. That’s what drew me to this position and keeps me motivated: the connections I’ve built with many students,” he says.
Patrick Duff, M.D., associate dean for student affairs, says Gorske is the first to hold the position of learning resource specialist at the college, and his impact is deeply felt.
“We specifically hired him because we noted more and more students struggling with the Phase I curriculum, particularly the preparation for their Step 1 exams,” Duff says. “Jim has done a wonderful job helping students develop better study skills and time management skills.”
Each year, Gorske meets with about 150 students individually, conducts presentations throughout the school year and coordinates tutoring support and group review sessions for medical and PA students. In each of his efforts, his mission remains the same: ensure each student learns and works to the best of their abilities.
“It’s important that students know that I’m available to meet at any point in time,” Gorske says. “My being available to support student success is very beneficial to them.”