Academic Societies

The Society Deans
Society Deans at Health Education Campus

The Robbins Society
Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs

The Blackwell-McKinley Society 
Dr. Todd Otteson
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs

The Wearn Society 
Dr. Steven Ricanati
Associate Dean for Student Affairs

The Satcher Society
Dr. Charles Kent Smith
Senior Associate Dean for Students
Dr. Jill Azok
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs

The Geiger Society
Dr. Marjorie Greenfield
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs

Upon matriculation to the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, all students are randomized to one of five Academic Societies, which are named after important people in the history of the medical school.

Students remain members of their assigned societies throughout their time as students. The Academic Societies aim to foster close relationships and a sense of community among students. The Society Deans serve as mentors, helping students navigate the curriculum and providing students with advice and support for residency and career planning.

Mission Statement

The purpose of the Academic Societies is to provide a comprehensive support system for students so that they can master the academic and professional skills required to be a physician. This goal is accomplished through advising, teaching, collating assessments for the Medical Student Performance Evaluation, and building a sense of community.


Personal Advising

  • Managing life events while achieving excellence in education
  • Referral as needed to Student Counseling Services, Student Health Services, and Addiction Services

Academic Advising

  • Holding group meetings during the Blocks: students create a Professional Learning Plan (PLP) and share best practices
  • Remediation (learning plans and academic and behavioral contracts)
  • Oversee the student-run Consult Services Program for providing learning assistance outside of class
  • Referral as needed to Educational Support Services
  • Arranging examination accommodations
  • Provide advice about academic scheduling and timing of National Boards exams
  • Dual degree program planning (MS, MA, PhD, JD)

Career Planning

  • AAMC Careers in Medicine Program guidance
  • Early career counseling for M1 and M2 students
  • 1:1 meetings to help students finding mentors
  • Match Time-Line, CV preparation, personal statement preparation, informational class meetings
  • Workshops and panel discussions in preparation for residency application


  • Helping students find mentors
  • Writing letters of recommendation for research grants, fellowships, and year-long programs
  • Coordinating with the Office of Medical Student Research


The Society Deans teach some curricular components but are primarily involved in the teaching of medical professionalism.

  • Organizing and leading the Professionalism Workshop at Orientation
  • Organizing and leading the annual Student Clinician Ceremony
  • Leading the Professional Learning Plan sessions (personal reflection, continuous quality improvement, sharing best practices)
  • Teaching in the IQ program (problem-based learning groups)

Building Community

  • Creating a smaller community where everyone feels heard
    • Society Lounge space
    • Society representation through the InterSociety Council (ISC)
    • Independent budget for the ISC, allocation determined by students
    • Society competitions
    • Society volunteer projects
    • Society logos
    • Vertical sharing of best practices
  • Managing or Playing Major Role in School Events
  • Keeping in touch
    • Weekly Society Dean meetings to share ideas and issues. Christine Warren, associate dean of admissions and student affairs at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine attends this meeting regularly. Student leaders and others are often invited if they have a request, issue, or information they want to present to the deans
    • Regular meetings with other administrative departments
    • Regular Dean's Council Meetings with the Committee of Student Representatives

Advocating for Students

The Society Deans advocate for their students in a variety of issues. 

Committee on Students Referrals

At the School of Medicine, decisions about academic advancement are handled by the Committee on Students (COS). Referrals to this committee are made for academic and professional reasons. The guidelines for academic referrals are clearly spelled out in the student handbook. The student's Society Dean will meet with him/her in advance, describe the process and then attend the COS meeting as the student's advocate. The Society Dean will also collate the data about academic performance and present it to the COS.

Referrals to the COS come from sources such as a faculty evaluation, faculty complaint, student complaint, criminal referral or a mental/physical health referral. The Society Dean will meet with the student, explain the COS process, and ask the student to reflect on the complaint. The Society Dean will attend the COS meeting to advocate for the student.

Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE) Letter Preparation

Graduating students need this letter as part of their residency application. The MSPE letters are prepared by the Society Deans. Students see the letter during the entire process, including the final product. 

The Society Deans prepare the MSPE (formerly known as the Dean's Letter). Although this is a letter of evaluation, the Society Dean's role is to collate the assessments that are submitted by the faculty. This is a transparent process that is accomplished through a series of 1:1 meetings. The part of the letter that is crafted by the Society Dean is the "Noteworthy Characteristics" portion, which is written with the aid of the student and relies heavily on information provided by the student.

If a student is uncomfortable with their MSPE, they may contact the Vice Dean for Education and Academic Affairs to request an independent review or a change in letter-writer.

Avoiding Conflicts of Interest

The Society Deans are advisors. All academic assessments are prepared by faculty and the Office of Curricular Affairs and are provided to the Society Deans. The Society Deans present the data to their students and review the assessments with them to help them reflect on areas of strength and weakness. When students fail to meet expectations on a particular assessment or curricular competency, they are referred to their Society Dean who will communicate the timing and substance of the remediation designed by faculty and will help students prepare a remediation plan.

Whenever possible, the Society Deans avoid having their own students in a pre-clinical or clinical teaching activity and will ask IQ team coordinators not to assign students to a group facilitated by their Society Dean.

The Societies work on a group practice model, and students are free to consult with any of the Society Deans. If a student genuinely feels that they have a conflict with their Society Dean and is not comfortable with this person, he or she may meet with the Vice Dean for Medical Education to request a change. The Vice Dean will make the final decision.