February 24, 2016

Drexel College of Medicine announces transformation of MD curriculum

New program, 'Foundations and Frontiers,' will emphasize skills and learning techniques suited for evolving health care environments

Education Medical Schools
022416_DrexelCollegeofMedicine Source/Drexel College of Medicine

Drexel University College of Medicine.

Drexel University's College of Medicine announced Wednesday that it will overhaul the curriculum for its MD program in order to better prepare physicians for the reality of rapidly evolving heath care environments.

As it is currently designed, Drexel's MD curriculum offers two tracks for incoming students during their first two years: an Interdisciplinary Foundations of Medicine (IFM) track and a Program for Integrated Learning (PIL) track. While both paths emphasize active and independent learning skills, IFM has been geared toward course modules that focus on a series of clinical symptoms, while PIL is tailored toward group learning and the study of patient cases.

Beginning in August 2017, the College of Medicine will introduce a unified program called "Foundations and Frontiers," which is designed to train physicians in the qualities essential to clinical excellence in the 21st century, according to Drexel Now.

The shift will place first-year students in more team-oriented, interdisciplinary classes while limiting the number of hours spent in lecture halls and rethinking rote memorization as a pedagogical approach. There will also be increased opportunities for medical students to collaborate with other Drexel colleges and pursue concentrations in related areas such as population health, informatics and ethics.

“These changes come at time when there is a real evolution in medical practice, including a shift in care from the hospital to the outpatient setting, an increasingly diverse patient population, a growing rate of chronic illness, a need to work in multidisciplinary teams and greater expectations for fiscal accountability,” said Donna Russo, Ph.D, senior associate dean for curriculum in the College of Medicine.

With Drexel currently educating 1 in 76 medical students in the United States, the College felt a change in strategy was imperative to ensure that the next generation of physicians are medically competent and fully versed in the social dimensions of patient care.

“Medical knowledge is changing rapidly. So, if we just say, ‘We are going to teach you everything you need to know,’ in five years, the facts will be different,” said Valerie Weber, MD, vice dean for educational affairs. “Instead, we are giving students models of how the body works and problem-solving skills.”

As part of the transition, first-year students will be required to take four courses instead of the previous nine. Instead of reducing the material covered, however, subjects will be integrated into courses that span several disciplines. With fewer lectures, students will be engaged in more online learning and independent assignments, with classroom time devoted to team projects on clinical cases.

The approaching changes are the culmination of a two-year process in which students, faculty, alumni, and medical education experts provided feedback, guidance and insight on how to reshape the curriculum.

“Every medical school has a different mission and is looking for different people,” she added. “Drexel is looking for students who are going to be kind, compassionate clinicians who have demonstrated empathy and a commitment to serve.”