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March 2010 Issue

Second-year medical student Jessica Sisto, who serves as region co-president of the American Medical Students Association (AMSA) with William DeWitt, also a second-year student.
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College of Medicine Set to Revamp Curriculum

By Angela Koenig
Published March 2010

The College of Medicine has begun a comprehensive review, analysis and revision of the four-year medical school curriculum.

The Educational Policy Committee (EPC), responsible for centralized oversight of the curriculum, has convened a special task force to facilitate the development of an integrative curriculum to better prepare physicians for practice in the 21st century. 

The initial review and analysis will result in recommendations by early March, with planned curricular revision and implementation to begin in the 2011–12 academic year.

The assessment is being undertaken by a 16-member task force within the college, co-chaired by Anne Gunderson, EdD, assistant dean in the office of medical education and associate professor, and Stephen Baxter, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine.

The task force includes students, faculty, course and clerkship directors, residency program directors and college administrators.

"While we do very, very well educating future physicians at UC, the ever-changing needs of the health care system require a rather dramatic response in medical student education and tra­ining programs,” says Gunderson. Although medical school curricula continually undergo renewal, medical education programs remain deeply rooted in recommendations from a report dating back to 1910, she says.

For example, the UC curriculum is currently designed as a two-step process, with the first two years focused primarily on the basic and behavioral science foundation courses. The second two years are dedicated to clinical training.

Current thinking among medical educators, Gunderson says, is an integrated approach to all four years of the curriculum. This approach allows formal clinical training to begin in the first year, and basic and behavioral science training to extend through the fourth year of medical school.

Additionally, there is a tremendous movement from lecture-based curriculum to experiential, small group and facilitated learning instruction methods.

The curriculum review, says Andrew Filak, MD, senior associate dean for academic affairs, is one of many undertakings by the recently formed department of medical education.

The department was designed to bring the College of Medicine into the forefront of medical education and "to provide a resourceful, energizing environment for new medical educators as well as those who have taught here for many years.”

The purpose of educational reform, Gunderson notes, is to ensure medical students are well prepared for the future of health care, to provide quality, value-driven health services to the community, and to have the skills needed to harness the ever-growing body of knowledge that informs clinical practice.

Other medical colleges have initiated rigorous curricular revision and reform, including Johns Hopkins University, the University of California, San Francisco, and the Mayo Medical School.

In a recent address, David Stern, MD, dean of the College of Medicine, told task force members: "I will support the reasonable recommendations of this task force and will ensure that the departments follow the recommendations of the task force. This is not just an exercise.” 

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