Medical School

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Frequently Asked Questions-Discovery Curriculum

 How does MCW’s curriculum differ from other schools?

The Medical College of Wisconsin is transforming the medical student educational model and curriculum to address the rapidly evolving practice of medicine.  The goal is to provide a curriculum that provides students with early clinical experience and an enhanced foundation of basic and clinical sciences using innovative interactive learning methods.  We offer multiple Scholarly Pathways that allow students to individualize their respective medical school experiences and align them with current or developing areas of interest.  Our curriculum differs from that of other institutions in that ours begins with a foundational year in the basic sciences, combined with introductions to clinical experiences using a variety of methods including classroom, standardized patients and in-clinic experiences.  The second year of our curriculum is comprised of seven integrated system-based units and capped off with an integrated symptom-based unit as the final course before the USMLE Step 1 exam.  Our unique Scholarly Pathways were developed to allow students to pursue an emphasis in their Medical Education; each student’s path is customized to meet his/her individual interests.

 I understand that a new curriculum will be introduced in August 2012. Why the change and what is different?

The Medical College of Wisconsin is committed to providing a curriculum that is responsive to the ever-changing needs of students and the evolving world of medicine, as well as one which helps students become compassionate physicians and innovative leaders.  The Discovery Curriculum’s unique blend of early clinical experiences, coupled with our Scholarly Pathways program, enable students to customize their respective learning experiences to support the discovery of their individual paths in the field of medicine.


The Medical College of Wisconsin is responding to the changes that have been occurring in medical education over the last two decades.  Among the drivers for this change were the desire for students to have more clinical experiences and more active learning opportunities, as well as to provide a competency-based medical education program.  Our new curriculum fosters more collaboration among departments, increased opportunities for active learning sessions and more structured and earlier clinical experiences.   It also supports the evolution of teaching basic sciences – from foundations courses through the integration within the organ systems to a review of how each student is impacted by the basic sciences learned within the clinics.

 What courses comprise each year of the Medical School curriculum?

M-1 Course Overview

M-2 Course Overview

 What teaching methods or strategies are used by the Medical College faculty?

Our faculty members employ a variety of teaching methods to maximize the full potential of learning.  These methods include didactic lectures; active lectures with audience response and/or discussion; interactive learning methods such as team-based and case-based learning; class preparation materials including audio and video recordings and readings; small and large group discussion and tactical learning; clinical human anatomy and wet lab; dedicated individualized student study time; and/or a combination of the above.  Our Faculty Development Work Group assists teaching faculty in enhancing their instructional skills and expanding their teaching repertoire.

 Will the new curriculum be graded on a Pass/Fail system?

The Medical College of Wisconsin currently uses a five-point grading system utilizing designations of Honors, High Pass, Pass, Low Pass and Fail.  The Medical College does not calculate a cumulative grade point average.  The grade of Incomplete is used only when a student has not been able to complete the course requirements within the time allotted for the course as a result of an acute or unexpected circumstance beyond the student's control. “Fully satisfactory academic performance" means that the student has earned a grade of at least Pass in any course or clerkship.  A grade of Low Pass is not considered to be a fully satisfactory performance.  Any grade less than Pass will be reviewed by the Academic Standing Committee.

 How will an early clinical experience make me a better doctor?

Caring for patients is a privilege that requires physicians to master many roles, thus ensuring a strong physician/patient relationship.  The goal of an early clinical experience is to enable the students to connect basic science with clinical patient experiences, allowing them to benefit from the hands-on application of clinical skills while simultaneously learning and applying basic science knowledge.  It also provides time for the practice of discrete parts of the physical exam – progressing to history-taking, physical diagnosis and oral presentation.   

 What opportunities exist to individualize a medical student’s experience?

The Medical College has created numerous Scholarly Pathways providing students the opportunity to develop skills and become exposed to many of the different elements of medicine while concurrently enabling them to concentrate on individualized areas of interest.  The Medical College of Wisconsin also offers additional electives for further customization of the curriculum in the M4 year.  

 What sort of faculty development will be offered to ensure faculty stay current with teaching methods?

Faculty Development is an important hallmark of the Medical College of Wisconsin, as reflected in a separate faculty-led Faculty Development Work Group. This entity meets on a regular basis to address faculty needs ranging from technology use to instructional methods and delivery within the curriculum.  Medical College staff includes educational specialists and instructional technologists who provide education and assistance to faculty on an as-needed basis.

 How does the new curriculum differ from the pilot curriculum currently in place?

The pilot curriculum was structured as an Organ System approach for the first two years of the curriculum to allow students to learn anatomy and physiology within each organ system.  The new Discovery Curriculum will begin in the M1 year in August, 2012, utilizing a course-based approach, enabling students to learn anatomy and physiology in a sequential manner.  The second year will revisit the organ system while also building on a simple-to-complex method of learning along with an early clinical experience.

 Will there be any changes to the building to accommodate the new active learning?

On January 27, the Medical College Board of Trustees approved a plan to undertake a $23 million facilities renovation and technology upgrade to support our education mission.  We expect that approximately 2/3 of the costs will be earmarked for facilities renovations and 1/3 for technology upgrades.  We are creating an Active Learning classroom, modernizing and completely remodeling the Human Anatomy space, constructing additional study spaces and improving small group spaces.  Study, Lounge and Collaboration spaces are being enhanced to provide students with additional areas for studying, relaxing and collaborating with colleagues.
© 2014 Medical College of Wisconsin
Page Updated 08/05/2014