Medical education enters new era
First-year medical students learning clinical skills are: Timothy Flewelen (left), Katelyn Parker (center), and Elizabeth Madrigal (far right); with instructor Nancy Havas, MD (second from right), Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine, and a standardized patient (an "actor" trained to portray a patient).
The practice of medicine is changing, responding to rapid advances in science and technology and changing dynamics in society and health care delivery. The Medical College has launched the innovative Discovery Curriculum to prepare medical students for the health care environment of the future. Our commitment remains the same: to prepare outstanding physicians for the people of Wisconsin and beyond. About one-third of Wisconsin’s physicians are graduates of the Medical College of Wisconsin.
In the fall of 2012, first-year medical students embarked on the new Discovery Curriculum at the Medical College of Wisconsin. This transformation of the educational model addresses the rapidly evolving practice of medicine and is designed to prepare outstanding physicians for the health care challenges of the 21st century.
“The new curriculum features greatly expanded clinical experience in the first two years, deeper integration of basic science and clinical education, innovative interactive learning methods, and individualized learning opportunities,” said José Franco, MD, Discovery Curriculum Director.
“Curriculum change is ongoing nationwide. The new curriculum is aligned with the highest standards and best practices among medical schools in the U.S.,” said Kenneth Simons, MD, Interim Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.
In the years ahead, physicians will increasingly use the tools of genetics to tailor care based on each patient’s unique genetic composition. Greater emphasis will be placed on wellness, quality improvement and patient safety, and caring for an aging population. “These major threads cross all disciplines and are incorporated throughout the new curriculum,” said Dr. Franco.
In the past, the first two years of medical school focused on basic science education, followed by two years of clinical education. “There wasn’t much integration between basic science and clinical,” said Dr. Franco. “The new curriculum provides significant clinical education in the first two years,
enabling students to connect basic science with patient experiences. Students also benefit from more time to learn and practice clinical skills.”
Entering students begin a foundational first year of basic science education. In parallel, clinical education starts in the very first week, when students commence learning and practicing the skills, communications, and professional conduct required for patient care. By second semester, students begin a year-long Clinical Apprenticeship, where “students are seeing real patients in a real clinic, and learning different portions of the physical exam under the supervision of their faculty mentor,” said Dr. Franco.
In the second year, basic science material progresses to complex biomedical problem-solving in organ-based units, such as heart, kidney and lung. Clinical experience is synchronized, so while students are learning the science underlying lung diseases, they are learning to do a lung exam in the clinic.
Throughout the four years of medical school, quality improvement and patient safety are taught as a lifelong practice. “Students learn that beyond continuous improvement in their own individual practice, they need to continually look to improve the systems of health care, ” said Dr. Franco.
To customize their education, students choose a concentration in one of five pathways: Clinician Educator, Global Health, Physician Scientist, Urban and Community Health, and Quality Improvement and Patient Safety. Active Learning is a hallmark of the curriculum, which provides student interactions in small groups, preparing students for team-based care.
The Discovery Curriculum focuses on the future, preparing outstanding physicians to care for people in Wisconsin and beyond in the 21st century.
Dr. Franco is Discovery Curriculum Director, Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, and Director of Hepatology. Dr. Simons is Interim Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education and Accreditation, and Professor of Ophthalmology and Pathology.