University of Louisville medical student Andrew Smith has been selected as a member of the 2015-2016 Student Editorial Panel for Universal Notes, a subscription-based web application that assists students in preparation for Step 1, 2 and 3 exams as well as the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) assessments. Smith is one of 10 students selected from medical schools in the United States and abroad to serve on the panel for one year beginning this month.

Smith, a third-year student in the School of Medicine, responded to a call for applicants who are interested in learning about medical education.

“It sounded like a great opportunity because I hope to teach medicine. One of the things we get to do is write questions for the Q-bank, so I hope it will improve my question writing. Also, I will be studying as I am updating the questions, so it will improve is my knowledge base,” Smith said.

Universal Notes was developed by Aaron McGuffin, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, as a tool for assisting medical students prepare for the exams they must pass on their way to becoming physicians. McGuffin created the student editorial panel to critique the material and to serve as a training ground for medical educators of the future.

“Students are the lifeblood of the success of Universal Notes,” McGuffin said. “One job of the panel is to use it and evaluate it and say how it could be better. The other thing is we put them in the role of teacher so they have to look at the curriculum as if they are teaching it. That gives them a respect for the challenges of preparing information for delivery. My hope for these student editors is they eventually want to be academic clinicians.”

Students were selected for the editorial panel based on their demonstrated desire to teach. Smith has been involved in teaching his fellow students at UofL both as an undergraduate and in medical school, tutoring students in chemistry and anatomy and teaching sections of the prematriculation program, which helps medical students get a head start on the curriculum for the following year of study.

“Andrew was one of the best student instructors I have had in the prematriculation program. He went above and beyond in preparing and presenting the lectures. He even hosted evening and weekend review sessions and created a practice practical lab exam for the students,” said Mary Joshua, UofL’s director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and prematriculation program coordinator. “He has a real passion for sharing his knowledge with other people.”

Smith already has begun evaluating the material in Universal Notes and developing questions.

“It needs more information, but that’s what we are here to do,” Smith said. “It is pretty exciting. I do love this kind of thing.”

Universal Notes is a comprehensive online study and assessment tool for medical students, helping them prepare for Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 and NBME. A companion app is available for Android and iOS devices. Universal Notes is compiled and edited by medical students and educators. The database contains information on basic sciences, drugs, diseases, labs, competencies and board review questions.


Betty Coffman
Betty Coffman is a Communications Coordinator focused on research and innovation at UofL. A UofL alumna and Louisville native, she served as a writer and editor for local and national publications and as an account services coordinator and copywriter for marketing and design firms prior to joining UofL’s Office of Communications and Marketing.