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Medical school restructures curriculum | The Triangle

Medical school restructures curriculum

On Feb. 24, Drexel University College of Medicine announced a complete rework of their medical program for August 2017. DUCOM, known for its two-track system of lecture-based and group problem solving-based tracks, will be creating a new singular curriculum called “Foundations and Frontiers.”  

The senior associate dean for curriculum, Donna Russo, talked about the revamp, which has been in progress for the past year.

“It was time to really look at [the program] to create one new curriculum to really meet the needs of the 21st century physician,” Russo said. Qualities that physicians have always needed, as well as some that are more reflective of modern times, were considered while designing the curriculum, Russo explained.

Russo said that prior to this switch, there was no difference between the success rates of the two tracks in the previous system.  

The new program will put students out of the lecture hall and instead provide them with more time in interdisciplinary classes in order to solve problems in groups. The new curriculum will encourage students to use their smartphones for information rather than piecing through PowerPoint slides. The number of courses students will be required to take at a time will decrease from nine to four, combining courses such as genetics, biochemistry and cell biology into “Molecules to Organs.” According to Russo, these combined courses will be linked to application-based courses. Lecture halls will be used for testing rather than lecture.

“The curriculum is going to move from being instructor-centered to student-centered, which we have a lot of experience with in our previous problem-solving track,” Russo said.

Many assignments will take place through online learning and independent assignments rather than sitting down in lecture. Information garnered from these assignments will be applied to clinical cases that students will work with in a group.  

“The focus of the curriculum will be more critical problem solving working in small groups, developing skills that they will need to function in a health care team, such as team-building type of skills as well as critical problem solving skills,” she continued. DUCOM hopes that this group-type work will provide smaller, more intimate learning environments.

Students will also participate in collaborations with other colleges in order to make room for concentrations such as population health, ethics and informatics.

“The ‘Foundations’ portion will involve one week immersion courses. Some of these have been introduced to students before but others will be new to the curriculum. While we’ve done population health before, now we’re doing a lot more. We’ve always done business in healthcare, but we’ve never done anything such as informatics, quality and safety. All will be integrated into these blocks, probably largely in a self-directed learning method,” Russo said.

She also said this new curriculum is not expected to interfere with the combined degree programs, and that much of students’ education will involve collaborations with other schools in the university.

With one of the largest incoming classes among medical schools in the country, Drexel educates one in 76 aspiring physicians nationwide. These students will also be asked to engage in community service and incoming classes will be divided into learning communities.

“We’re creating a longitudinal community care practicum,” she continued,” where students will go into the community and work with community members and patients in the community to really learn the principles of social justice, population health, and work in profession teams in the ambulatory settings.”

Many other medical schools have taken this similar model in order to integrate students into the clinical setting of the local community.

According to Russo, this curriculum has been approved by both faculty, students and alumnus.It is expected that  this change will be for the better for future physicians. Russo also explained that although there will most likely be some tweaks when the curriculum comes to practice, she believes residency programs will look favorably on the change in the program.