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July 2011 brought the latest film adaptation of the popular Harry Potter books, chronicling the adventures of students possessing magic powers as they attend the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Matriculating students at Hogwarts attend a "sorting" ceremony at which they take turns donning an enchanted hat that assesses their personalities and then assigns them to one of four houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw or Slytherin.

August 2003 saw the comparatively low-key introduction of four new advising societies at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. No magical hat was to be found, but utterance of the society names conjures up visions of some of the medical school's most notable alumni and faculty members: Blackwell, Robbins, Satcher and Wearn.

Medical students will remain members of their assigned societies throughout their time in school and beyond. The groups aim to foster close relationships and a sense of community among the students, and the deans of the societies are serving as mentors, helping students navigate the curriculum. As the students progress in their education, the society deans will provide advice on residency and career planning.

Serving as the society deans are:

Dr. Haynie, who has been associate dean for student affairs since 2001, said he has appreciated the new society system. "The structure allows me to deal with issues other than just 'problems' which in the past made the Office of Student Affairs similar to that of a principal's office," he said.

Dr. Smith agreed: "We can already see the benefits of the program in its early stages." Students will continue to see benefits, too,

Dr. Haynie said. "Since all four years will be represented in each society, there will be cross-communication between years one through four," which hasn't been facilitated in the past, he said.

In a way, Dr. Ricanati said, his service as a society dean is a repayment to those who have counseled him in the past. "I have benefited from great mentoring, and I am interested in sharing my experiences and talents with students," he said, adding, "The society deans create a safety net to encourage students with a clear direction. I hope that the society deans will foster independence among the students but also be around to assist them when help is needed."