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Planning For a New Paradigm

February 23, 2011

A comprehensive review of the curriculum and Yale's vision for medical education yields a set of concrete recommendations for major change. In implementing them, Yale will raise the bar for teaching nationally.

To the School of Medicine Community,

As many of you know, the school has now completed its strategic planning process for medical education. The goal of this effort was to take a broad and comprehensive look at the state of teaching at Yale School of Medicine, consider ways in which it could be improved, and set a course for guiding its future direction.

The 18-member committee’s charge was to make recommendations that would renew Yale’s vision for medical education and strengthen the quality of the educational program—and to set clear priorities for moving forward that demonstrate our commitment to excellence and advance our reputation as a leader in medical education.

Why was this necessary? Yale is widely acknowledged as having an exceptional program of study, and our students leave extremely well-prepared for careers in medicine. The list of residency placements each year is testament to the quality of education here and the esteem in which Yale medical graduates are held across the country. And the basic truth is that faculty at the School of Medicine are here because they love to teach. However, it is widely acknowledged that medical education is in a state of transition and must be reexamined periodically to adjust to the ever-changing circumstances in which medicine is practiced—and to new knowledge about the most effective ways to teach. There is concern at a national level that medical school curricula have not evolved sufficiently since the time of Flexner a century ago, and that medical school faculty face major challenges in finding time and institutional support for teaching, relative to their responsibilities as researchers and clinicians.

After comprehensive review and discussion, the committee issued its final report, which incorporated comments from faculty, alumni, and students. I have reviewed the report and enthusiastically endorse its recommendations. We expect that this process will be transformational. A new curriculum design committee is currently forming and will begin the nuts-and-bolts task of reworking the curriculum in all four years—five if you count the extra year that many of our students take to do research and, in many cases, earn a second degree.

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

Photo by Terry Dagradi

First-year medical students cross the library rotunda following the White Coat Ceremony. Photo by Terry Dagradi.

I believe that as we move forward, the work of this committee will define medical education at Yale and set a paradigm for other medical schools to follow. To assure this leadership role in the future, we, as a school, must take the initiative to:

  • Engage in significant curricular reform, while reaffirming the principles of the Yale System of medical education.
  • Further recognize the importance of teaching at Yale, by instituting a more formal recognition of teaching in the appointments and promotions process and creating a Teaching and Learning Center with a focus on educator development, improved methods of assessment, and the creative application of technology.

I urge you to read the report available online. I also would like to thank the members of the Strategic Planning Committee for their hard work in contributing to this important project. These members included Richard Belitsky, MD, chair; Nancy Angoff, MPH ’81, MD ’90, HS ’93; Peggy Bia, MD; Eve Colson, MD ’89; Michael DiGiovanna, MD ’90, PhD ’90; Gail D’Onofrio, MD; Fred Gorelick, MD, FW ’79; Frederick Haeseler, MD, FW ’79; Margaret Hostetter, MD; Peter Marks, MD, PhD; Aldo Peixoto, MD; Bill Rando, PhD; Robert Rohrbaugh, MD ’82; Michael Schwartz, PhD; John Sinard, MD, PhD, HS ’93, FW ’94; Dennis Spencer, MD, HS ’76; and ex-officio members Mary Hu, MBA, and Gisella Weissbach-Licht.

As we now move to designing a new curriculum, we would appreciate input and suggestions and invite you to contact members of the Curriculum Design Committee. The committee members are Richard Belitsky, MD, chair; myself; Nancy Angoff, MPH ’81, MD ’90, HS ’93; Peter Aronson, MD, FW ’77; Danny Balkin, Class of 2012; Peggy Bia, MD; Michael Caplan, MD ’87, PhD ’87; Eve Colson, MD ’89; Peter Ellis, MD, MPH; Janet Hafler, MEd, EdD; Mary Hu, MBA; Bill Rando, PhD; Bob Rohrbaugh, MD ’82; Mike Schwartz, PhD; and Chris Sauer, Class of 2013.

A concerted effort to implement change will ensure that the excellent work of the committee yields significant results. This is starting to happen now, and it will require sustained investment over time. This work is vital to the future of the school, and with your support and participation we will be well on our way.


Robert J. Alpern, MD

Dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine