Program Mission

To guide medical students through their transformation into physicians, deepen their understanding of physicians’ interactions with the world around them, and support students in reaching their full potential.

How Compass Works

COMPASS Stands for: 

Co – Coaching 

M – Mindful reflection 

P – Professional Identity Formation 

A – Assessment 

S – Self-care 

S – Self-directed learning 

Overarching Goals

Compass Program diagram showing Learning to Learn, Succeeding in School, Becoming a Doctor, Resilience and Wellbeing

  • Develop longitudinal relationships between students and faculty educators.
  • Cultivate a relationship where a student feels known and supported as both a person and professional.
  • Individualize each student’s medical school career, so they feel personally acknowledged within a larger community and health care system.
  • Help students develop a practice of self-directed, life-long learning that fosters a growth mindset in their medical school career and in their future practice.
  • Discuss professional identity formation and how students transform their personal identities into personal and professional identities through their experiences.
  • Assure that students are meeting milestones and acting on relevant assessment data.
  • Counsel students on values-driven decision-making and provide appropriate career-counseling resources.

COMPASS Program Overview

The COMPASS Course will inspire and support students in maximizing their personal and professional potential. During the course students will complete comprehensive assessments of their clinical skills and medical knowledge.  They will also participate in activities and coaching to support their own professional growth. Aligned with several of the guiding values for curriculum reform (longitudinal relationships, growth-mindset, vitality and well-being, outcomes based, and individualization), the COMPASS program supports each student by pairing them with a trusted faculty member, their COMPASS guide.          

How will a COMPASS Guide work with students?  
Each student in the Trek curriculum will have a COMPASS guide –a faculty member who can facilitate self-reflection and approach a student’s individual development with a growth mindset. These guides will have a set number of students each year and will work with this cohort throughout their training in medical school. Guides will serve as small group facilitators and meet regularly with each student to provide feedback and coaching. . This structure creates devoted and focused time for the guide and student to foster their own unique relationship.  

COMPASS Hybrid Course

What is a Traverse Week?
Each Student Will Have a Unique Schedule

traverse weeks example Monday through Friday

The Hybrid COMPASS program is built around five Traverse weeks.  Each week has a learning theme focused on an important aspect of professional identity formation. The weekly structure will consist of a combination of large and small group interactive learning opportunities covering a range of topics that are all designed to support professional growth.  There will also be comprehensive assessments of clinical skills and medical knowledge as well as flexible time to check-in with coaches and attend to self-care. 

Your COMPASS Guides

On entry to medical school, each student is assigned a medical student coach, a “COMPASS Guide,” who will work the students over the arc of their medical school career, from orientation to commencement. Our Guides are clinician-educators, selected for their success and enthusiasm working with students. Each Guide acts in a number of roles for their assigned students- as a coach, a facilitator, an advisor, a sponsor, and more.

For a deeper overview of our individual faculty please visit our Guides Profile page.

During the first year, Guides and their student groups meet weekly to discuss topics including Health and Society, Professional Identity Formation, and Career Navigation. Guides also meet one on one with their student at set intervals throughout the year for individualized coaching sessions. As students progress through their clinical years, Guides will serve as a resource for clinical development, career decisions, building out the web of support we offer our students.

Near Peer Mentorship

Out of our COMPASS Program, we run a fourth year elective called the Physician as Advisor (also known as the Navigator Program). Students in the course are referred to as Navigators for their role in guiding fellow medical students. Our Navigators are senior medical students chosen for their interest in community building, advising, and the School of Medicine broadly. Incoming students meet our Navigators on day one of orientation during a welcome celebration. The Navigator program is highly student-driven and helmed by two student co-directors who plan class and school wide events. Enrolled elective students also receive dedicated training in leadership skills throughout the year. 

Through this elective, we build community across classes, foster community in our College system, support individual students though career advising resources and near peer mentorship, while providing participating students authentic leadership training. 

Professional Identity Formation

The Trek Curriculum has an explicit focus on medical student professional identity formation (PIF). This content begins during medical student orientation and recurs at regular intervals in the preclinical and clinical years. Through small group discussion and large group panels, students have space to explore how existing personal identities are transformed during medical school into personal and professional identities. While the COMPASS Program has a prominent PIF thread, this theme occurs and is reinforced in other facets of our curriculum as well.Some of the topics we address in our PIF curriculum include: 

  • Professional identity and the Imposter Syndrome
  • Growth Mindset and the Master Adaptive Learner
  • The Hidden Curriculum
  • When Emotions Intersect with Patient Care
  • Navigating Boundaries and Social Media.
  • Transitioning from Learner to Student Doctor
  • Identity in the Clinical Space
  • Making Mistakes and the Second Victim

Career Navigation Resources

The Office of Student Life offers a number of its services through the COMPASS Program, including personal statement workshops, CV workshops, ERAS navigation workshops, mock interviews workshops, and conversations with the Deans. These resources complement other resource from of our COMPASS Program, the Office of Student Life, and subspecialty advisors.  

Our goal is to begin discussions with students around professional identity formation early, to help explore values that may inform career decisions. Career decisions occur at different times for every student- our goal is to make sure these are well-informed choices, both internally and externally.

Office of Curriculum Contact Information

Technical Support


Contact Information

Lawrence Haber, MD 
COMPASS Program Director
University of Colorado, School of Medicine 
Division of Hospital Medicine,
Denver Health Medical Center 

Laura Bryant
COMPASS Program Coordinator
Office of Student Life — Fitzsimons Building, Room N1219 | Mail Stop C292
13001 E. 17th Place, Aurora, CO 80045
Direct Line: 303-724-6406

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