A new school year, and a new curriculum

August 27, 2015

Mary I. O'Connor, M.D., director of the Musculoskeletal Center, gave this year's keynote speech, entitled "The Wisdom of Changing Ourselves."

Dean Robert Alpern: 333 Cedar Street

333 Cedar Street is a letter from Dean Robert J. Alpern, MD, Ensign Professor of Medicine, on topics of interest to the Yale School of Medicine community. Write to Dean Alpern at 333cedar@yale.edu.

The launch of the medical school’s new curriculum, long in the planning, is cause for celebration as we kick off the 2015-2016 academic year.

As the new academic year begins, we celebrate the implementation of a new medical curriculum for our students. This landmark achievement marks the culmination of years of intensive self-study and planning. In 2008 the school embarked on an educational strategic planning process. The final report of the Strategic Planning Committee for Medical Education, published in June 2010, called for the medical school to “rebuild the curriculum from the ground up.”

The School of Medicine’s new curriculum is based on eight overarching goals and six guiding principles, designed to give students the best possible preparation for future medical practice and to preserve the Yale System of medical education, unique to our school.

The curriculum’s eight overarching goals serve as the foundation for our curriculum and define its content. Emphasis is placed on goals that meet the growing needs of a changing society and medical practice. A strong foundation in science provides special opportunities for students to participate in creative endeavors that foster the lifelong pursuit of scholarship.

104 students make up the School of Medicine's Class of 2019.

Some hallmarks of the new curriculum include:

  • Enhanced integration of basic and clinical sciences. Eight successive Master Courses integrate basic and clinical science to build an understanding of system and organ-based content. In parallel, three longitudinal courses, including Human Anatomy, span the year and integrate with the Master Courses.
  • Longitudinal clinical experiences where students are directly involved in patient care from the beginning of medical school, with an emphasis on interprofessional education, team-based care, and knowledge of the healthcare system.
  • Inclusion of topics critical to contemporary practice, such as health disparities, social justice, prevention, quality and safety, and interprofessional education.
  • Integrated formative assessment that provides students with frequent, meaningful, and actionable feedback about their performance that they can use to improve their learning.
  • Introduction of a more robust program evaluation, including the use of peer and student evaluation of the quality of teaching; the implementation of the Plan, Do, Study and Act (PDSA) Cycle, a validated method for evaluating outcome data and enabling change; and careful attention to the assessment of the learning environment.
  • A new clerkship model that begins earlier in the curriculum, integrates across disciplines, and provides opportunities for greater continuity with patients, teams, and mentors.
  • Enhanced flexibility to ensure that students have sufficient research time, opportunities to complete electives and sub-internships, study for board examinations, go on residency interviews, and participate in other experiences based on students’ individual career choices.

Over time we will carefully review the new curriculum to ensure it meets our standards. John Encandela, PhD, associate director for curriculum and educator assessment in the Teaching & Learning Center (TLC), is implementing an evaluation system to address in real time those factors that influence student learning and the learning environment.

I want to thank everyone involved in the planning, design, and implementation of our new curriculum for their input and tireless efforts. Extraordinary thanks are due to Richard Belitsky, MD, deputy dean for education, whose leadership in medical education has made our medical school stronger, and to Michael Schwartz, PhD, associate dean for curriculum, who has been at the fore of the curriculum overhaul. I am also enormously grateful to Susan Larkin, the project manager of the curriculum rebuild; to all of our education faculty and staff, including those in the TLC and the leaders of the new Integrated Courses and Clerkships; our exceptional teachers; and the hundreds of faculty and students who served on the strategic planning and rebuild committees and supported this process.For more information on the new curriculum, please visit http://medicine.yale.edu/education/rebuild/.

In closing, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you well as we begin another semester at Yale School of Medicine.