Medical School

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Curriculum History

The Medical College of Wisconsin has a proud legacy of innovation in education. From humble beginnings as an offshoot of a local college, the Medical College has grown to become a renowned center for both research and medical education. Throughout its history, the Medical College has focused on training future physicians – with significant input from its faculty. The recent faculty-driven evolution of the medical school curriculum, therefore, is reflective of the value the Medical College places on faculty leadership and expertise.



The seeds of curriculum change were planted at a January 2007 retreat sponsored by the Medical College’s Curriculum and Evaluation Committee (CEC) to review and respond to survey data from students, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the organizations that administer the United States Medical Licensing Exam. In November 2007, a second CEC retreat outlined a vision for the curriculum which would include:

  • learning in a clinical context / integrated curriculum using a case-based approach
  • early and continuous patient contact
  • individualized and flexible learning
  • learning communities and competency-based course work


In September 2008, the Dean’s Education Innovation Advisory Committee (DEIAC) was formed and a retreat held, which resulted in an endorsement of many of the earlier CEC curriculum concepts. Most importantly, the DEIAC proposed that going forward, the Medical College curriculum should focus on:

  • integrated courses with both basic science and clinical faculty
  • early clinical exposure for students
  • individualized student experiences


Continuing the process, four work groups were formed to research best practices and benchmark innovative curriculum design of medical schools throughout the country. The findings were shared at a retreat in January 2009, resulting in the creation of the Pathways Program to provide students with an integrated, flexible, competency-based experience which would also afford them an opportunity for individualized learning.  In September, 2009, the Introduction to Pathways course debuted as a required offering for students in the M1 and M2 years. 


Ongoing debate continued among Medical College faculty concerning further evolution of the curriculum, especially as increasing numbers of medical schools began to adopt curriculum-related best practices. Consequently, Medical College faculty developed a Pilot program to ascertain the longer-term adjustments needed to develop a robust and dynamic curriculum which would roll out over time to an entire incoming class. The Pilot was offered to 210 students: 98 volunteered to participate and 28 were eventually chosen to begin the program with the class matriculating in fall 2010. This group would be the first to experience an innovative curriculum which integrated the basic sciences with clinical learning, aided by cutting-edge medical technologies.


In August 2011, the CEC formed the New Curriculum Steering Committee (NCSC) to leverage what was learned from the Pilot. Additionally, the NCSC was charged with melding the best of the Medical College’s traditional and pilot curricula to develop a vision for a new curriculum, establish major content areas and oversee successful evaluation and implementation.

In November 2011, the Discovery Curriculum was approved after many months of a collaborative, faculty-driven effort to finalize the design for foundational basic science and symptom- and symptom-based course content, early clinical experiences and individualized student learning opportunities.  


The class matriculating in fall 2012 (graduating class of 2016) will experience the Discovery Curriculum throughout its entire four years of medical school.
© 2014 Medical College of Wisconsin
Page Updated 01/02/2014