Virtual Peer Tutoring Helps Students Succeed in Medical School

Virtual Peer Tutoring Helps Students Succeed in Medical School

Peer-to-peer tutoring via Zoom is helping students at Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (LMU-DCOM) as they continue to navigate through the challenging curriculum online.


Second-year students have always been tutored via Zoom by third- and fourth-year students on clinical rotations. However, first-year students are tutored by second-year students, which prior to COVID-19 took place in-person. The pandemic forced the students to pivot to a completely online tutoring program.


Peer mentoring began as early as 2008 with the inaugural class. Once students in the inaugural class began their second year, they offered their help to the incoming first-year students, and that family atmosphere of helping one another became part of the culture at LMU-DCOM. A few years later, LMU-DCOM established a peer tutoring program for which students could apply to be a paid tutor. Today both the peer mentoring and peer tutoring programs remain a part of resources available to students.


“Any student is eligible to apply to be a tutor as long as he or she is passing all of their courses, and has a ’B‘  or better in the course in which he or she plans to tutor,” said Aaron Phillips, PhD, director of academic support at LMU-DCOM. “I interview all of the applicants and they also must go through an application process with HR.”


Peer tutoring is a program through LMU-DCOM’s Office of Academic Support, which offers services designed to enhance learning and aid in the success of all students. Other academic support services include one-on-one individual consultation and large and small group presentations. For third- and fourth-year students located off campus at rotation sites, telephone and/or video conference meetings are made available. The same services and resources are available at each location, with a Director of Academic Support at both Harrogate and Knoxville. Some of the topics covered are study skills, time management, stress management and wellness, test anxiety, test-taking strategies and board preparation.


Though no student at LMU-DCOM is required to receive tutoring, those that do find that it is a huge benefit.


“Some students who do really well in courses take advantage of tutoring and some students who are struggling do not,” said Phillips. “There are so many factors that go into student success, it is really difficult to attribute specific accomplishments to one thing, but I will say anecdotally, I think it makes a big difference.”


Candyce Mehler is a fourth-year student who has been a tutor at LMU-DCOM for three years. She is currently navigating rotations and residency interviews while tutoring students via Zoom in her free time.


“I was a supplemental instructor and teaching assistant throughout undergrad and I really loved it, so I knew I wanted to be a tutor at LMU-DCOM,” said Mehler. “Tutoring is such a rewarding job; I always learn something in every session because students really ask the best questions. Having a direct influence on someone's medical education has always been really rewarding.”


At the end of the Fall 2020 semester, students were asked to submit messages of appreciation and words of encouragement for their peer tutors. Below are some of the anonymous comments included:


“My tutor went above and beyond to help us in Clin Neuro and Respiratory. Her help was invaluable, and her practice questions help guide me in my studies.”


“I cannot thank you enough for all of your help with Respiratory and Neuro this semester! Your tutoring sessions and recordings have saved me on exams, more times than I can count. You have such an amazing way of teaching the material in a way that sticks.”


“Each tutor came prepared for each session ready to review all material and answer any questions. They not only emphasized key points for upcoming exams but also discussed highly board-relevant concepts from each of the lectures. All had a good flow and pace to their tutoring sessions, were well-organized and incorporated practice questions throughout, which I love.”


“Thanks to all the tutors for taking time out of their busy schedules to help us out. Each and every tutor was a valuable asset in our education and growth at LMU-DCOM. I am extremely appreciative to have this resource available to us!”


“All the tutors were very helpful this semester even with their busy rotation schedule. I emailed many of them outside of tutoring and got responses in a timely manner. Changing to an online format was difficult, and you all made the transition much easier for me.”


Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine is located on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, with an additional location at LMU-Knoxville. LMU-DCOM is an integral part of LMU’s values-based learning community and is dedicated to preparing the next generation of osteopathic physicians to provide health care in the often underserved region of Appalachia and beyond. For more information about LMU-DCOM, call 1.800.325.0900, ext. 7082, email, or visit us online at

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