Frequently asked questions about the Discovery Curriculum

Why was the Medical College of Wisconsin’s curriculum changed 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 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 was 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. 

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.  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 foundation 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.

How does the Medical College of Wisconsin’s curriculum differ from traditional medical school curriculum? 

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 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 United States Medical Licensing Examination 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.

How will early clinical experience help students become outstanding physicians? 

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  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 courses comprise the first two years of the Medical School curriculum?

M-1 Course Overview

M-2 Course Overview

What teaching methods or strategies are used by 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.

Were there any changes to the building to accommodate the new active learning?

The Medical College of Wisconsin undertook a significant facilities renovation and technology upgrade to support our education mission, which included:  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 were enhanced to provide students with additional areas for studying, relaxing and collaborating with colleagues.  

How was the new Discovery Curriculum developed?

The new curriculum is the culmination of more than four years of planning by Medical College of Wisconsin faculty, staff and students. Several hundred people at the Medical College joined forces to craft a vision and develop a working design for the curriculum. A pilot curriculum, in which nearly 30 students participated, provided significant input into the development process.  The Discovery Curriculum’s Steering Committee developed a clear vision for the curriculum, including identification of major content areas of the curriculum, sequencing of the content, and the individuals responsible for developing and implementing the content areas.   

The Discovery Curriculum Steering Committee is comprised of the following members:

Marcie Berger, MD M2 Associate Work Group Leader
David Brousseau, MD Scholarly Activities Leader
Jenny Bultman Project Manager
William Campbell, PhD Basic Science Chair
Alan David, MD Clinical Chair
Bert Forster, PhD Clinical Experience Associate Leader
Jose Franco, MD Director
Paul Halverson, MD Academic Standing Committee Representative
Todd Hoagland, PhD M1 Work Group Leader
Jon Lehrman, MD Clinical Chair
Linda Meurer, MD, MPH Scholarly Activities Associate Leader
Martin Muntz, MD Clinical Experience Leader
Kenneth Simons, MD Academic Affairs Representative
Matt Tews, DO M1 Associate Work Group Leader
Paula Traktman, PhD Basic Science Chair
Sally Twining, PhD M2 Work Group Leader
Margaret Wong-Riley, PhD Medical Scientist Training Program Representative

What are the first-year medical students saying about the new Discovery Curriculum?

“I appreciate how all of the classes make an effort to teach about similar subjects at around the same time.”

“I like that there is a lot of cross-over between classes. That is, it's helpful that what we learn in one course is reiterated and expounded upon in another.”

“I really like the integration plans between different courses and subjects. The teachers seem very invested in our learning. The administration and support people also seem very helpful. Overall there is a feeling that a lot of smart people care a lot about our experience--and that has been my favorite part of the start of medical school.”

“I can see the time and effort that went in to integrating theories across classes/subjects. THANK YOU!  I think it will make learning things so much easier and makes more sense, as medicine is practiced as an integrative discipline.”

“The faculty have been extremely helpful in ensuring that all students understand what is expected and required in the new curriculum. I do not feel unprepared for any classes thus far.”

“I like the integration between multiple classes, the Form and Function lab is phenomenal, and I feel like the school has communicated well with me to help in this transition process of becoming a medical student.”

“I really enjoy that the curriculum tries to have continuity throughout the courses. I am enjoying the majority of the lectures and feel that I am learning relevant material. I also like that the curriculum includes an area in each lecture for clinically relevant examples. This helps me to focus on why I need to learn this!”

“The lectures that integrate class participation are well suited for the Discovery Classroom. It makes them engaging and interesting.”

“Small group sessions work very well for learning in an interactive environment.”

“Having our iPads definitely lets me learn in a way that allows me to learn on a moment-to-moment basis. I used it today at least three times to look up words/acronyms I wasn't familiar with and to clarify something I was not familiar with.”

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Page Updated 12/13/2012